When you travel somewhere, you get to know the culture of the country you're visiting, and its language(s) is a big part of the culture. There are so many more languages and dialects on this world than there are countries, so one shouldn't substitute a country with a culture. A few steps down the road, you may encounter something utterly different.
But every culture and every language has its particularities. There are some amazing facts in etymology and linguistics that allow us to draw connections to culture. Obviously, food and its collective consumption plays an important role in Filipino culture, as in most Asian cultures. This phrase is a good example and a punchline for a basic cultural attitude towards everyday social life. This is why I find it very astonishing, and I hope to find further examples of telling international language facts while travelling. A few more interesting language facts that I have gathered up to now:
- Karoke means “empty orchestra” in Japanese.
- Seoul, the South Korean capital, means “the capital” in the Korean language.
- In English, the name of all the continents end with the same letter that they start with.
- The etymology of the word “samba”, as Brazilians suggest, is a corruption of the Kikongo word Semba, translated as umbigada in Portuguese, meaning “a blow struck with the belly button.”
- Eskimoes have hundreds of words for ice but none for hello.
- The chess phrase “Checkmate” comes from the Persian phrase “Shah Mat,” which means “the king is dead.”
- The Sanskrit word for “war” can be translated with “desire for more cows.”
- “Copenhagen” is an old low Danish word meaning “Merchants Harbor”.
- The Hawaiian alphabet consists of 12 letters and the ʻOkina.
- The word “voodoo” comes from a West African word that means “spirit” or “diety.” In the etymology of the word, there are no connotations of evil or immorality.
- In Spain, when there is one bit of food left on the plate that nobody will eat, it is referred to as “la vergüenza”, or “the shame.”
- Different languages have different filler words; instead of “umm”, “well” or “y’know”, in Japanese language the words “eetto”, “ano”, “sono”, and “ee” are used to fill conversation gaps.