v37: mjäll

I was reading the restaurant reviews in Uppsala Nya Tidning (UNT) using Google Translate (GT), when I saw the following interesting description of a meal:

UNT: Rödingen (270 kronor) serveras mjäll och fin med paksoi, en asiatisk bladgrönsak, som är fyllig och saftig.

GT: Charles (270 SEK) served dandruff and fine with paksoi, an Asian leaf vegetable, which is rich and juicy.

Interestingly, when I first read it a few months ago, the translation of Rödingen was (correctly) Char, so I remain bemused as to how GT improves its translations. But dandruff?! Something one might expect to find at the hairdresser next door, but not on one’s fish! A much better translation is tender. That is, the word mjäll has two meanings, which have an interesting connection. Think about it for a minute, then read on to find out more.

I admit , I did make it a bit tricky by translating mjäll as tender; Norstedts is more helpful; their online dictionary says:

mjäll = transparently (diaphanously) white

Their etymological dictionary says:

som har en fin och mjuk konsistens
having a  fine and smooth consistency

That is, tender is a good translation for mjäll only when talking about cooked fish, but now you can see how other words, like Swedish mjöl (flour) and mala (grind) and English meal and mill are also related.

Next week’s clue:

windmill

Windmill; nice tie-in I thought.

What colour is the wind (this works just as well in English as in Swedish)?

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Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 14:33  Comments (1)  
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  1. […] how do you work out if the separate meanings for a word are related? My first word in this blog was mjäll, which means both tender and dandruff, which are related and thus polysemes, although the […]


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