Word games

In doing research for a short story, today I’ve been investigating the words for bee in different languages.

Bee at Arnos Vale © Judy Darley

The Spanish word is  la abeja, which reminds me of the Spanish for work – trabajar. Coincidence? After all, the bees I see in the garden seem so utterly industrious in their pollen harvesting.

The French word is l’abeille, the Dutch, bij, while according to some kindly Welsh speakers on Twitter, the word most commonly used in Welsh is gwenyn – very pretty.

And yet we just get plain old bee, almost as in ‘to be or not to be’. Either very plain, then, or very profound.

And then I came across the Italian for bee and discover that the answer is ape. Now I know it’s not pronounced as it looks, instead being said as “AH-peh’ (which itself throws up the pleasing similarity to happy), but just imagine if this misunderstanding could be unravelled to mean we’re in fact not descended from chimps, but from bees!

It would make a curious kind of sense, perhaps, considering my passion for honey on toast.

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