teisipäev, jaanuar 15, 2008

hella hella

It's an odd thing, but sometimes Estonian and American cultures cross-over in unforseen ways. Sure there's the small linguistic coincidences -- Estonians call pizza pitsa -- but then there are the bubbles of mixed meanings that appear out of thin air.

Today, I received an e-mail from a woman named Hella, and I realized that 'hella' is also a New England slang word that adds emphasis, as in "Teddy got hella laid in Martha's Vineyard."

In New York nobody would say something is 'hella cool', but up in Boston, the Sam Adams beer is 'hella refreshing', the recent study in The International Journal of Rural Psychology is 'hella intriguing', and the pizza in Cambridge is 'hella good', only one stage below 'wicked' -- the ultimate expression of joy for any Red Sox fan.

Whenever I read or hear the name of someone whose first name is 'Hella' I automatically expect that a) their last name will be the noun that is intensified; and b) the rest of their commentary will be your usual irritating Masshole fare, along the lines of "Yankees suck."

If an Estonian person's name is Hella Must, I therefore assume she is extremely dirty. If her name is Hella Lemmik, then she's my absolute favorite. And if I hear the name Hella, warning bells go off preparing me to hear a tale about a catastrophic journey on the T -- the Boston area's mass transit system, bereft of the letter 'r'.

These are subtle linguistic detours that few in the world are bound to experience.

20 kommentaari:

Pierre ütles ...

"Whenever I read or hear the name of someone whose first name is 'Hella'..."

And I bet it sounds hella nicer with an Estonian accent than with the Beantown twang. :-)

Martasmimi ütles ...

Pierre said...
"Whenever I read or hear the name of someone whose first name is 'Hella'..."

And I bet it sounds hella nicer with an Estonian accent than with the Beantown twang. :-)

12:01 AM

Twang is a term used to define a
US Southern or Western accent .
"Texas Twang"
The folks from Baa..ston "Beantown" would "wickedly" resent that twang term.

Toomas ütles ...

For years I had similar feelings with SAAB, the Swedish car and plane manufacturer. Whenever I saw an ad or something else where was mentioned the name SAAB or a SAAB drove by my mind started wandering on ways like "gets or doesn't get", "who gets what"... :)

Anonüümne ütles ...

My late mother's name was Helle. The closest most mangiacakes could come in approximating pronunciation was generally 'Hilly,'and my mother accepted that. However, if feeling mischievous, she'd spell out H-E-L-L-E to new acquaintance and tell them that 'the final e is silent.'

Kristopher ütles ...

Great Canadian word, mangiacakes.

Do Estonians in Toronto really use it like that?

I would say goyim in the same context, jokingly, because mangiacake would sound more derogatory to my ears, but now that I think of it, there's definitely an Estonian parallel (leivasööjad ja saiasööjad - Westerners eating the refined white bread).


LPR ütles ...

Every time I meet a woman named Anu, I wonder ...

ok never mind. Never mind.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Kristopher said...

Great Canadian word, mangiacakes.

Do Estonians in Toronto really use it like that?

Dunno, Kristopher. You're lexicologically way ahead of me. I didn't know till now that mangiacake was Italo-Canadian. I had assumed it had entered the mainstream of North American English via New York and Hollywood like the thousands of other Italianisms and Yiddishisms in daily use. As I lived in Toronto only briefly and over thirty years ago, I'm not at all plugged in. I don't know what Toronto Estos there would say for WASPs, but can't recall a Toronto Esto actually saying 'mangiacake.' If memory serves, my contemporaries there would usually designate WASPs as simply kanukid (i.e., Canucks), as in:
Käisime nädalavahetusel kanuki pulmas, olime seal lahja leeme peal. Igavam värk kui tistlaste matustel.

The last couple of years we've lived closer to Toronto, in Niagara, amid a high concentration of Italians (to our delight!), and I've been in a position to validate my use of Italianisms through daily associations: with my broker, my osteopath, the waitress at Anna's, the ladies at Casa di Leone bakery, the cashier at Antipasto di Roma supermarket, etc. As with your use of goyim , the connotations of mangiacake have over the years become more jocular than derogatory, and have expanded to cover more than just dietary/gustatory preferences. My broker (who, before turning to equities and beancounting completed an advanced degree at the LSE in history; thesis topic: 'The Battle of Caporetto') agrees that mangiacake now cuts to the core philosophy of the individual so designated, and best describes an individual of determined unilingual and unicultural bent with a built-in resistance to learning about anything remotely 'foreign' or 'exotic.' Now if such individual happens to be of WASPish extraction, well... eeeech! Could happen, eh?

Examples of usage in context:

Yours truly has a captive audience of old WASP friends in his living room and undertakes, after dinner, to run an old VHS copy of, say, Juris Podnieks' Baltic Requiem or,say, a DVD of The Singing Revolution. He announces the screening by clapping his hands: "OK, mangiacakes , it's SHOWTIME!" This conveys to the audience that viewing is considered mandatory, and their only alternative is to be swathed in duct tape and to sit through said viewing as a merely auditory experience.
Flip back several decades to a Christmas in Kingston, Ontario. Guests, including several putative mangiacakes are sitting down in our humble grad-students' apartment to a feast of verivorst, hapukapsad, sült and kindred accompaniments. Overwhelmed by the blackened heap of sausages, the glorious aroma, and breathless from his first-ever shots of vodka, one novice asks in wide-eyed innocence: "How does one eat this?" To which my wife, having prepared the spread and having spent several hours on snow-covered highways with me, fetching the precious verivorst from the now-defunct Poko Meats in Toronto, replies succinctly: "ORALLY! One ingests it orally, mangiacake , because the other way is more painfully!"

Of course my wife of 44 years, being of Scots extraction, is quite pig-headed, whereas as an Esto I am merely... steadfast and determined. Still, being functional in Estonian and adept at preparing good rosolje and pirukad, she's no mangiacake. As Dr Sam Johnson observed, "Much can be made of a Scot, if caught young."

Footnote: the verivorst-sceptic subsequently became an aficionado and pestered us with requests to 'score' a supply of the sacred sausages for his own personal use. De gustibus nihil est disputandum, eh?

Occasionally, it must be admitted, mangiacake does retain derogatory nuances, even in non-gastronomical contexts. Only recently, whilst watching a rather befuddled Canadian politician waffle and equivocate on the CBC about the Kosovo issue, all the while referring to the Balkans as the BALTICS, Herself erupted, and, with some heat, dismissed the onscreen talking head as "Mangiacake schmuck!

Rather charming combination of Italianism with Yiddishism, I thought, and a stellar example of how immigrant tongues have enriched the North American idiom.

AndresS ütles ...

I don't think I've ever heard a Estonian Canadian say mangiacake.

I know a couple of Italians that use it but it's not a terribly common term afaik.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Andres Sehr said...
I don't think I've ever heard a Estonian Canadian say mangiacake.

I said that. Whatta we got here, an Eco,Umberto?

I know a couple of Italians that use it but it's not a terribly common term afaik.

That's because the Italians are a compassionate people, and have agreed never to say it in front of Estonians.

Not since the big Esto-Italian bakeoff of 1951 up at Corso Italia on St.Clair West. First Esto entry was kamakäkk. "Come se dice? Capocaccia?" the stunned Italians wanted to know.
The Italians countered the kamakäkk with Sicilian cannoli, with riccota and candied fruit filling. The Estos came back with a humungus kringel to counter the Cassata alla Siciliana, often called Italy's national cake. Kringel was so dry it had the judges farting dust. Italians summoned a priest to administer last rites to the kringel.

Both sides adjourned for drinks and agreed to forget the entire humiliating episode.

LPR ütles ...

"Kringel was so dry it had the judges farting dust ..."

Tramaeivõi. Vaat see oli naljakas.

Giustino ütles ...

Us/those Italians are a bit weird about food. My New York Irish friends like to carry on about Michael Collins and things of that nature, but I always have to remind them that their food ... stinks.

I am not 100 percent certain though that Italian food is God's gift to mankind. If I ate eggplant parmagiana every night, I know I'd be in a world of pain. Not to mention fatter.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Irish, Estos, Germans, Poles and Finns once faced off in a major culinary competition.

Who won? Nobody!

Having heard the judges' comments after the first round, all teams decided to cut back on their key ingredient.

Result? Irish and German contingents were heavily fined by the EU Cabbage Cartel, while the Finns, Estos and Poles were picketed by the the pork producers' lobby.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I am not 100 percent certain though that Italian food is God's gift to mankind. If I ate eggplant parmagiana every night, I know I'd be in a world of pain. Not to mention fatter.

Cut the eggplant; it can be dicey. Seriously.

There are fat Italians, but the remarkable thing is, as med researchers have found, that there are a hell of a lot of fat Italians out there with very low cholesterol and triglyceride levels. More and more doctors are touting a 'Mediterranean diet' (which includes Greek and a lot of Mideastern foods).

The 'secret' of why Italian food is healthful is ascribed variously to the liberal use of virgin olive oil, garlic, and of course the abundance of fresh veg. I mean, Italian salads don't exactly come in fruit nappies, do they? And the intake of fatty meats is really pretty low. Mere slices and slivers in the antipasto, LOTS of fish (chock full of Omega3), lots of chicken (cacciatore, or catch it any which way, I say!), and the meatballs and sausage and veal cutlets are kept down to pretty miniscule quantities. There's usually heaps of fruit for or with whatever dessert too... Anyhow, the Italian cardiovascular stats are persuasive. Of course, this would not apply to New World situations where the kids tear off to McDonalds after just paying token tribute to mamma's cuisine. Same is true for other groups, like Asians. Once the fast food cuts in, Cardioman cometh....

But this fat old bastard likes Italian food just because it tastes great, and because the ingredients are 'honest' and identifiable, unlike French cooking, where a lot of stuff is camouflaged by sauces. Oh, yeah, and with the French, esp. with this 'cuisine minceur' fad, you get f..... small portions, too.

Anonüümne ütles ...

I forgot to mention the third round of that infamous culinary contest...

The canny Estos thought they had it aced, trotted out seljanka followed by rosolje ...

The cometition was picketed by Nashi carrying placards citing various patents and copyrights...

Estland ütles ...

Interesting connotation. Sometimes I do experience a similar thing with languages - not necessarily with Estonian.

Pierre ütles ...

"The canny Estos thought they had it aced, trotted out seljanka followed by rosolje ..."

And here I thought they were Latvian delicacies... ;-)

LPR ütles ...

Estonians have this rosolje and kartulisalat which I think are the ultimate party foods. Food like that, precut into tiny pieces and smothered in mayonaise is the best when it comes to puking. Tried and true. When the party lasts into like 10am next morning, one gets to appreciate the ease one can recycle his stomach with this so food and become all clear and healthy with a shot of cold vodka after each round. There is a cut off time though. For me it was in my early twenties, but as far as I can tell, boys back home haven't changed a thing about the routine.
No wonder I was shocked when I got to these shores here to see how Americans didn't really know how to party. I mean - REALLY party. You know to have these Esto style orgies like Jaanipaev. Maybe rock stars have them here like that. Party like there's no tomorrow. Regular civilians certailnly have no clue how to "relax".

Perhaps America needs to learn a thing or two about rosolje, the ultimate party food.

Alex ütles ...

Estonians have this rosolje and kartulisalat...

I'm all about the munasalat myself.

Kristopher ütles ...

Stay away from the eggplant -- acid-reacting, lots of alkaloids, a sponge for oil. But damn is it good battered and fried, and then baked in tomato sauce and cheese.

Not everything is God's gift, but what I've found about Italy is that just like coffee, they don't do bad food, no matter how low you go. I even had TV dinners there for 2 euros that came in varieties like some sort of cassoulet, and artichoke heart souffle.

What there is in Italy above all, though, is a respect for food. I don't think you would ever find an Italian writing about a food as an esophageal lubricant, even anonymously. I don't think Estonians exactly do that either.

Ain Kendra ütles ...

On rosolje having no idea, but soljanka seems having russian origin.