Friday, December 4, 2009

A rose, by any other name

You discover what's in a name and how complicated names can be when you're looking for a somewhat obscure thing in a language not your own. The other day I was searching for steel wool, something I've used for this and that so many times. I knew better than to translate "steel" and add "wool" - instead I looked it up in two of my English/Spanish dictionaries, and discovered that it's called estropajo de acero which sounded fine. Except that no one in Freund or Vidri, the two largest hardware stores had heard of estropajo de acero. Then I tried to describe it, and talked about a metal sponge, una esponja metálica, and that didn't help either. It also didn't help that my planned use - to discourage rats from colonizing a particular dark corner of the house - got the salesmen talking poisons and traps. I roamed up and down the aisles, trying to spot a little bag of the familiar stuff, and couldn't. Maybe it's never been imported to El Salvador? But that hardly seems likely. Next time I go in, I'm going to take this picture, because a picture is definitely worth 1,000 words. And if I discover what it's called in El Salvador, I'll let you know.

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