Friday, August 13, 2010

Beware: Sometimes Words Mean What They Say

(Time Warp Series #1 : An accounting of things that should have been blogged ages ago.)

I went to China a while ago to do some research for a book I am writing. One of the things I did was take a trip down the Li river near Guilin. The region is famous for its tea made from the flowers of the Osmanthus tree. On the boat, a man was selling something stronger made from the flowers - Snake Wine. As you may know, the Chinese have many poetic euphemisms in their language. So I thought: Snake Wine? Undoubtedly named for the twisty, viney nature of the Osmanthus flower. Well, as it turns out - No.

I asked the guy if I could see the bottle. Here's what he showed me.

Okay then. Not a euphemism. And those worms in the tequila bottle are looking pretty whimpy right about now.

"What kind of snakes are those?" I asked. The man struggled to find the word in English, but finally came up with it. "Cobras."

Oh. I see. So I should expect a fine floral bouquet with an under-essence of venom... Well, we travel the world to experience new things don't we? Bottoms up!
Turns out the name was a euphemism after all. Wine? I think not. This stuff was somewhere between brandy and 190 proof hooch. I was breathing fire after the first sip. Perhaps they should call it Dragon Wine.