they brought me an avocado

Umberto Eco’s essay How to Travel with a Salmon contains a funny if puzzling line:

I asked for a lawyer, and they brought me an avocado.

But why? Original Italian text Come Viaggiare con un Salmone says:

Ho chiesto un avvocato e mi hanno portato un mango.

Avvocato means “lawyer”. Mango, apparently, is the next best thing to avocado. The pun is clearly lost in translation.

Avocado, as well as tomato and chocolate, are of Central American origin. The Nahuatl words āhuacatl, chocolatl and tomatl were adopted by Spanish as aguacate, chocolate and tomate, respectively. In her seminal Chocolate: The Consuming Passion, Sandra Boynton jokes that

it was not until chocolate came to the United States that people began spelling and pronouncing it correctly: CHOCOLATE

— even though the Spanish spelling of chocolate is exactly the same. Most European languages accepted (with some variations) the Spanish versions, while Italians invented their own word for tomato: pomodoro (literally, “golden apple”). Russian employs both words, in slightly different contexts: томат typically refers to the whole tomato plant while помидор is just the fruit. Still, we drink томатный сок (tomato juice).

Nahuatl āhuacatl chocolatl tomatl
Spanish aguacate chocolate tomate
Afrikaans avokado sjokolade tamatie
Dutch avocado chocolade tomaat
English avocado chocolate tomato
Finnish avokado suklaa tomaatti
French avocat chocolat tomate
German Avocado Schokolade Tomate
Greek αβοκάντο σοκολάτα τομάτα
Italian avocado cioccolato pomodoro
Portuguese abacate chocolate tomate
Russian авокадо шоколад помидор, томат
Turkish avokado çikolata domates

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: