How was your Halloween? ¿De qué te disfrazaste? I was a queen bee–abeja reina–and my friend was a beekeeper–el colmenero. We went to a costume dance party and basically won the costume part, but since we’re not great dancers but merely good, another couple won overall. So much fun! Here are some pictures, though unfortunately a bit blurry.
The yellow outfit was the uniform from a dance team that I used to be on, and I painted the black stripes on it with the help of masking tape. Bought the tights, made some pseudo-antennae, and made a crown but didn’t wear it much. For a day there, I was Vocabee. What did you dress up as? Did you buy or make your costume?
OK, now I’m thinking about bees, so let me see if I can’t drum up some relevant Spanish vocabulary.
In Colombia, abeja is a very common and colloquial way of saying that someone is slick, clever. This can be in a good way as in business, or it can indicate someone who takes advantage of others–wily, crafty, sly. Standard synonyms would be listo and astuto, and interestingly enough another way of expressing this is avispado (avispa means wasp). Downright libelous for bees and wasps, if you ask me.
Pilas con Orlando, que ese man es muy abeja.
Watch your back when you’re with Orlando because that guy’s sly as a fox.
Want to say that you’re busy as a bee? Although abeja will convey that idea in some countries, in others hormiguita (little ant) will do it much better.
The word above for beekeeper, colmenero, comes from colmena, which means beehive. When I lived in Bogotá, my first bank account was with Banco Colmena. (It no longer exists.) After always assuming that Colmena was a made-up brand name like Pantene or Cheetos, I was quite surprised to learn one day that I’d been banking with Beehive Bank all along, something that sounds like it came straight from Richard Scarry’s Busytown. I could have been banking with a place named Banco Colchón (Mattress Bank) and been none the wiser.
Why a beehive? I guess the cells of a beehive are supposed to be evocative of how a bank has separate accounts for people’s money to grow and be safe. There used to be another Colombian bank called Conavi whose mascot was a much-loved, iconic bee for several decades. Considered the Colombian Mickey Mouse, la abejita Conavi could be seen everywhere from sporting events to classrooms. A bee was chosen as the symbol of the bank because the insect collects, saves, reinvests and multiplies pollen, honey, and wax for the future use and survival of the bee colony. A beehive also symbolized the thrift and industry of many humble workers. But this bank also merged with another one over time, and the bee disappeared. Told to buzz off, I assume that bees have entirely disappeared from the banking landscape.
And what about honey? I wrote about miel de maple a long time ago, but that’s not really honey; it’s maple syrup. Here are some phrases that talk about the real deal.
Miel sobre hojuelas–I’ve never had hojuelas, but apparently they’re a delicious fried pastry in the shape of leaves. (Hojuelas de maíz is the proper name for corn flakes, but people usually just say confleis.) Although they’re already a scrumptious delicacy in their own right, to drizzle honey over the hojuelas instead of just sugar allegedly ratchets their deliciousness up to an almost unfathomable level. So the phrase miel sobre hojuelas is used to indicate that a good situation was just made even better.
Voy a escribir una novela este mes para el NaNoWriMo, lo que será muy gratificante para mí y un buen reto, y si encima algún editorial acepta mi manuscrito y lo publica, pues miel sobre hojuelas.
I’m going to write a novel this month for NaNoWriMo, which will be very rewarding for me and a good challenge. And if on top of that some publisher accepts and publishes my manuscript, well so much the better.
Todo era miel sobre hojuelas hasta que vi que le daba like a su propio estado, ahí un gran abismo nos separó para siempre.
Everything was as peachy as could be until I saw that he liked his own status–then an enormous abyss separated us forevermore.
No todo es miel sobre hojuelas en el matrimonio, pues a veces hay rachas cuando uno no puede ver a su pareja ni en pintura.
Not everything about marriage is a bed of roses–sometimes there are periods when one can’t even stand the sight of their partner.
Another phrase I like is dejar (a alguien) con la miel en los labios or quedarse con la miel en los labios. To leave someone with honey on their lips means to leave them hanging, to leave them wanting more, to tantalize them and then stop right before the best part. Imagine someone smearing honey on your lips but you can’t reach to taste it. (Because you have a short tongue? Because your lips are sewn shut? No idea.) Or they give you just a taste and then cruelly whisk it away. Someone builds up your expectations, makes you positively salivate while anticipating it, and then they don’t follow through at the last minute.
No nos dejes con la miel en los labios, cuéntanos ya lo que pasó esa noche entre tú y la japonesa.
Don’t just leave us hanging here; tell us what happened that night between you and the Japanese woman.
Aunque había soñado con ganar, Mario concluyó cuarto en la carrera, así que se quedó con la miel en los labios.
Although he had dreamed of winning, Mario placed fourth in the race, leaving him disappointed and frustrated.
Maybe the idea isn’t that someone has dripped honey on your lips and that you can’t reach it; maybe the point is that that’s all they did. You wanted the dessert–let’s say it was a mouthwatering piece of baklava that oozed honey–and they waved it in front of your face and even brushed it against your lips, but just as you opened your mouth they snatched their hand away. All you’re left with is the trace of honey on your lips to then savor. While it’s better than nothing, the sweetness would be so brief and piquant that the ache of longing and sense of loss it would provoke would cause unbearable pain.
Finally, a truly wonderful and erudite bee phrase that I definitely need to dust off after having shelved it around age ten: None of your beeswax!
But, of course, that’s not true– what I write here about Spanish and Colombia is all of your beeswax. Let me know if you can think of any other bee-inspired vocab, and definitely share your costumes with us.