La Jama de Yoga

Posted on August 23rd, 2010 by Valerie

My late father-in-law used to speak Catalan reverse slang, which he had originally devised with his best mate, as a young man, so that la grossa (la sogra, the mother-in-law) would not understand them. (This was even funnier in a politically incorrect era because gros/grossa also means large or fat.)

Decades later, Avi (grandad, to the kids) still used many of these words quite normally, and we picked them up. I remember asking for un llopastre and failing to grasp why the butcher just stared at me as if I was from Mars, with a Manuel-from-Fawlty-Towers ‘qué?’ (pollastre = chicken). My younger son recently confessed that he hadn’t realised till he was in his teens that a sardine was really sardina and not nardisa.

My eldest and humourless brother-in-law Lluis was seriously caught out on the one occasion that he visited our mountain house in the village of La Moca (La Coma) in the Solsonès. As lunch was being prepared, he asked where the bottles of cava were.

“A la banyera (in the bathtub),” said Avi.

Lluis went to both bathrooms then returned totally puzzled. “Can’t find them.”

“Que sí. A la banyera.”

We winked at each other. In our cryptolect, banyera was the word for nevera (fridge). The congelador (freezer) was the consagrador.

Most of the words which Avi back-slanged were everyday household words, in particular food and drink. Here are some we still sometimes use en familia:

nupra              pruna            plum

mopa               poma              apple

cruse               sucre               sugar

tell                   llet                   milk

faquè               cafè                 coffee

faquetera       cafetera         coffee pot

et                      te                     tea

cof                    foc                    fire

nof                   font                 spring

lluquera        cullera            spoon

moga              goma              rubber tube


On the living room wall was a print of one of the world’s most famous paintings. But I always have to make an effort to remember its real name.

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4 Responses to “La Jama de Yoga”

  1. Theresa Says:

    Fascinating stuff. Love it. In our house as a kid my father and I would always say ‘nob unit’ (bon nuit) before going to bed.
    lTHe painting, la maja – ajamla?

  2. Theresa Says:

    oops! just realised i hadn’t taken in the title of the blog post!

  3. Valerie Says:

    Ah! I did wonder. Was going to say it’s just nouns that are switched like this.

  4. TORIL Says:

    Great! Never heared the “vesre” in català, though it’s so popular in Argentina and Uruguay.
    Sosbe, Rilto

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