a little cameo

Life in Colombia and everything that goes with it

Making a dictionary worth its weight in words

When I was packing my bags to move to Colombia my hardcover Collins Concise Spanish Dictionary was on the yes list. Then on the maybe list. And ultimately ended up in danger of landing on the no list.

At 1.977kg on the kitchen scales it took up a decent portion of my luggage allowance. I started out adamant that it would be coming with me. I wasn’t going to buy a new you-beaut dictionary in Colombia that would cost a bomb and run the risk of not being as good (as discovered in a previous experience buying a not-to-be-trusted, inadequate dictionary in Latin America). I had also decided that my He-Man novio could do me the favour and carry it; it would be useful for him too and help to tone his muscles.

After seeing the mountain of belongings I was taking begin to grow like the local rubbish tip, I panicked about how much everything would weigh and started to think up weak reasons for not packing the dictionary.

Only at the final hour when everything was packed and weighed did I find I had both the physical space, and a spare two kilos for the behemoth. And so the dictionary joined us on our international journey and breezed through the airport check-in.

When we changed our plans mid-journey and decided to forgo our plane tickets, we suddenly had a much tighter (and stricter) weight limit to take on the bus. On our international bus trip we had to pay excess baggage, twice. Whoops! Suddenly the dictionary of my dreams was a dead weight, costing us money to keep it on the journey.

Cut to 2 months later and I’m now grateful I decided to bring the world’s weightiest dictionary with us because I’ve landed myself a gig updating some translations in a tourist guide to Santa Marta and I need to get the words right. At first I thought pobladores meant villages, but after confirming with Señor Diccionario, discovered it means settlers. It’s tricky little words like this and aledaña (outskirts) and the one I always forget destacar (to emphasise or stand out) that mean my dictionary is now worth its weight.

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2 thoughts on “Making a dictionary worth its weight in words

  1. My favourite Spanish word has always been desafortunadamente. I think it was one of the first I ever learned and it stuck. My main issue being Canadian is the Spanish tends to get muddled up with the French in my brain, so I’ll often say a Spanish word to a francophone and vice versa. I need me one of those dictionaries!

    • Oh absolutely! Desafortunadamente is a great word and I love the sadness and pain that people put into their voices and faces when they start a sentence with it (except this sentence which comes with a cheeky grin). That’s the bother with romance languages, they are so easy to mix up, but then again many words are very similar so it’s a bit of a mixed blessing!

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