Romanian is an interesting language — a Romance language, by the way, having little to do with Russian or Hungarian (contrary to what many people think when they first meet me for some reason…) and it is in fact one of the closest languages to Latin as well as Italian. You can see this in words such as plăcere, pleasure, which is translated as piacere in Italian. You can see it when the word for house, casă, is the same word that is used in Spanish.
The language is one I have grown up speaking, and what is interesting to me is how much I have learned since I started speaking only it to my now nearly four year old son Chaim Yosef as well as his baby sister Malka. I have made many observations and realizations on the nature of the language as well as connections that can be made between words. For example, I didn’t really know the word for square until I needed to teach it to Chaim — the word is pătrat. I was out on a walk with the family and we were talking about shapes and how many sides different shapes had — when we got to square, I had to laugh. “Căt de multe are pătrat?” I asked him. How many does a square have?”
“Patru,” he said — four.
“Da, Chaim. Pătrat are patru…” and I suddenly realized why it was called pătrat — the number four is right there.
A similar incident happened once when he, out of curiosity, picked up a knife.
“Nu atinge cuțit! Este ascuțit!” Don’t touch the knife! It is sharp! There again, the word for knife is buried inside the word for sharp.
Most recently, Chaim has been just a little bit confused about my shaving habits. I tend to shave on Fridays in honor of the Sabbath. On one Friday evening he looked up and noticed I was clean-shaven after a couple of weeks of not shaving.
“Tati,” he said, “Unde este bărbat?”
“Nu, Chaim,” I replied, “Vrei sa spui unde este barbă. Tati este bărbat!”
What he meant to ask me was where was my beard. What he asked me instead was where my husband was. Beard — barbă. Husband — bărbat.
I subsequently thought of some connections to the English language. Bear in mind that beard is barbă — what is the word for a person who shaves beards and cuts hair? Barber. What is a brand of shaving cream that is fairly popular in the United States? Barbasol. Barbă-solution, basically.
Language is funny!