It is apparent to me now that my interest in languages has always existed. I can clearly recognize my early fascination when I think back on how I used to read the foreign words on shampoo bottles, food packaging ingredient lists and any other place where these functional little translation dictionaries were presented to my young eyes. French and Spanish were the forerunners on American packaging. Now that I’m living in Europe there seems to be a whole array of tiny language dictionaries placed at my fingertips. In fact, in Belgium nearly every package contains at least 3 languages – Dutch, French, and German. A common mistake that those who have never attempted to learn a second language often make is assuming that language learning is a simple task of taking the word which you want to say and translating it to the corresponding word in the target language. Sometimes it works like this and when it does it’s a beautiful thing. Often it doesn’t.
The other day I was perusing the orange juice carton and I noticed something very odd. How many orange juice ingredient lists had I read during my lifetime up until that point? Considering my aforementioned ingredient-list-reading behavior, it’s safe to assume quite a few. Never in my life did I notice that orange juice contained egg whites. Upon this discovery I quickly told my (boy)vriend (see previous post, False Friends, to learn why I just spelled boyfriend in such a peculiar way) that we needed to put the juice back in the fridge quickly since it seems to contain eggs. This induced laughter. For, you see, eiwitten is a tricksy little Dutch word that in fact means egg whites but more generally means protein. There is a notable amount of protein in Belgian orange juice, but indeed no egg whites.
Want to know why protein is commonly called eiwitten in Dutch? I did, too.