Adam’s Apple

Flickr/Marc Dominianni
Flickr/Marc Dominianni

What we call an Adam’s apple, the Spanish call a nuez, a walnut, which seems a better name for that bit of cartilage, sometimes more noticeable, sometimes less, a bump about the size of a nut, never as big as an apple. Yet myth has it that on swallowing a bite of apple, Adam’s eyes were opened to—among other things—anatomical differences from Eve, so I can make sense of that name, too. Plus, a prominent Adam’s apple looks like something stuck in your throat that might well have resulted from that particularly daring bite.

Like English, Spanish is full of pet names for things, and sometimes for the same things. We say funny bone, though the thing named is really a nerve, and the Spanish say hueso de la risa or hueso de la música, laughing bone or musical bone. We say pinkie, the Spanish say meñique, little finger, which seems lackluster, a bit sad. On the other hand, in Spanish you have pajarito for a little boy’s penis, which charmingly means little bird.

In Spanish, even more than in English, terms for sex and sexual organs abound, but maybe it’s just that they surprise me more. We say balls, and the Spanish say pelotas, same thing. They also say nueces, just as we say nuts. They also say huevos for the same body part, which means eggs. Then there’s cojón, a slang word for testicle that has no other meaning, though it appears in countless expressions about valor, surprise, and extremity.

Jogging along a side road one day with my running partner, I picked up at my feet a recently fallen plum. It was unblemished, a slightly mottled purple in color, smooth-skinned, a perfect fit in my hand, and the taste, when I bit into the fruit, was divine. “Delicious,” I proclaimed, licking my lips. I looked around and picked another up. Those, I was told, my mouth still full of the second one, are called cojones del fraile, friar’s balls.

My enjoyment was not diminished. As for my companion, he thought it was a great joke, and he laughed quite a lot. In fact, he laughed his head off, an innocent English expression rendered in Spanish as se descojonó, where it is something other than your head that is lost. I think of the expression with a smile now whenever I see, scattered about, that particular, elongated variety of purple plum.

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Clellan Coe, a writer in Spain, is a contributing editor of the Scholar.


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