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What the word for “Spoon” tells you about your language Posted by on Jun 15, 2015 in Archived Posts

Itchy Feet: Entertaining Utensil

I’ve made a startling discovery.

Much in the same way that the position in the night sky of arbitrarily-determined groupings of stars on the day you happened to be born can tell you everything you need to know about your personality, the tonal linguistics of the word for “spoon” in any language is a perfect descriptor of that language’s qualities or character. In layman’s terms, it’s a horoscope for languages.

A Spoonoscope.

I alone have been endowed with the astonishing ability to read these qualities through the Spoonoscopal arrays of the sonic force. Today I’ll be making a demonstration of these abilities. I shall start by divining for you the personality of the languages with which I am most familiar, to get us accustomed to the power of the Almighty Spoon. I will then use this incredible gift to predict the qualities of languages with which I am not at all familiar, and allow you to judge for yourself.

Let’s begin.

English: “Spoon”
Starting soft with “sss” but propelling us immediately into the oval curvature of the double-o and alighting with an angel’s “n” by the end, the word “spoon” tells us that English is easy to learn at the beginning, but warns us of troubles down the road (am I sensing idioms?). The single-syllable word is practical, ubiquitous, and fairly bland, depending greatly on the speaker to bestow it any sort of flavor, much like the English language itself. Quality: mild

German: “Löffel”
Encapsulated by loving “l”s on either end, stuffed full of “ffff”s fluttering in the breeze like wheat in a field, but confounding expectations by breaking perfect symmetry with alter-ego vowels (one featuring an umlaut, no less, a tubular “ooueh” requiring one’s full concentration to pull off), the German for “spoon” informs us that despite its harsh reputation, there is in fact a soft, warm heart beating at its would-be symmetrical center. It achieves balance and proportion without losing conviction, and adheres strictly to the rules while managing at the same moment to inspire childlike wonder. Quality: civil

French: “Cuillère”
Pure poetry. Slicing down unflinchingly from “kwoo” to the joyous loop-de-loop double-“l” through to an irreverent tease of a finale, the French word for “spoon” fuses form and function both to achieve an admirable uniqueness. It runs the vocal gamut from throat to lips to teeth, suggesting wide range and broad applicability, yet stubbornly maintaining in the pronunciation that which makes it utterly distinct. It is cultured, steeped in tradition and requiring a practiced tongue. Quality: rich

I will now leave the realm of the familiar and apply the laws of Spoonoscopy to three languages with which I have little to no experience. Prepare to be astounded.

Chinese: “Sháo zi”
A firm, principled “shh” spirits us across the vowel plateau of forceful tone and determined action, dipping through to rest tentatively on “ziuh”, buzzing with energy and excitement. There is an eager playfulness and great humor in this final sound, brimming behind what can easily be mistaken by the untrained ear as drab conformity. Rather, it is deep reverence and a solid connection to its foundations that grounds the Chinese word for “spoon”, allowing it both power and humility. Quality: tidy

Japanese: “suh-POO’N”
What appears at first impression to be a simple facsimile of the original in fact reveals itself to be a vast improvement. Advancing the position of the vowels from a loose afterthought to a center-stage, spotlit celebration, the Japanese word for “spoon” combines the simple practicality of its foreign roots with a fresh, vibrant perspective honed by centuries of precision and discipline. A zany, colorful twist on the final “n” completes the picture like a swirling liquid in a simple, elegant glass. The question is not why it was done, but rather how to learn from it. Quality: light

Swahili: “kijiko”
Kicked off into the blue by “ki”, we slip into the sliding “ji” and rocket out and across on the back of “ko,” three sounds like three mischievous brothers working in unison with a twinkle in their eyes to some riotous end. Bright, frisky and bursting with life, the ricocheting back-and-forth tones of the Swahili word for “spoon” have a restless, eager personality, inviting what may come with abandon and laughter, welcoming one and all to partake in its festivities. Slyly making use of common tones, these merry syllables can find themselves on anyone’s lips, finding home where it may and leaving none behind. Quality: fun

And that, friends, is the end of my demonstration on Spoonoscopy. I believe the results speak for themselves. Although I may be the first to discover the power of this gift, I have no doubt the Mighty Concave One shines within each and every one of you. You only need be attentive to its curvy call, and divine for yourself the personalities of languages across the globe.

What’s the word for “spoon” in your language, and what can it tell us about its qualities?

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.


  1. Joseph T. Madawela:

    very entertaining

  2. Katya:

    Spoon in Bulgarian is лъжица or “lazhitca” 🙂

  3. Katya:

    actually is “lazhitsa” ,
    l- like (l)ion
    а – like l(ea)rn
    zh- like (Gi)selle
    i- like (e)nglish
    ts- like pi(zz)a
    a- like pizz(a)

  4. Nina:

    The Polish one is very off. It would sound more like “Wush-kah”. That “L” that it starts with is not actually an “L” it is an “Ł” and that makes a lot of difference. The “Ż” makes more of a “SH” sound — or better yet, a “ZH” sound.
    I don’t know Swahili, but I’d like to say that one is wrong too, but only a bit. The way most languages work, a “J” would make a “J” sound and therefore it would be pronounced “Kee-Jee-Koh”

  5. Alyssa:

    In Iraqi it’s kha-shoo-gah. خشوگة

  6. Lee:

    In Irish, it’s “spúnóg.” I imagine it’s originally a loan-word from English. It’s an almost direct cognate.

    • Malachi Rempen:

      @Lee That looks funny, so I’ll allow it!

  7. Marie Koch:

    In Spanish – cuchara. Not to be confused with cucaracha (cockroach)!

    …as in La cucaracha, La cucaracha, something, something, something something, something, something, something, La cucaracha, La cucaracha…..

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