In many languages, the words beginning with B seem to go to onomatopoeic extremes: they cover everything that’s good and bad about humanity. In English, for example, on the negative side, there are words such as bad, brutal, barbaric, beastly, behead, bibulous, banal, bitchy, brute, betray, belch and burp. On the good side, though, there is beauty, bliss, benefactors, birthdays, benefits, barbecues and blessings, not to mention bars, bacchanalia, babefests, breasts, boobs, blonds, bosom buddies, beer and beefcakes. And in the Romance languages the same positive vibes apply: think of words such as beau, bon, bonjour, bon vivant, belle, beleza, bom, bueno, buono, bene, bine, buna… Plus, of course, there is Bernardo (me!) a bright n’ breezy bastion of benevolence, bonhomie, brawn and brains and (bygone) beauty. What more can I say?
Every now and then I thumb through my five Romance language dictionaries at random, looking for odd words that tickle my fancy, appeal to my sense of humour, or just have a musical sound. Here are some breezy Bs:
FRENCH: une bergeronnette, noun feminine, a wagtail. OK, you are never likely to need this word unless you are a bird watcher, but it has a nice ring to it. Betty and the Bergeronnettes would be a great name for a pop group.
ITALIAN: uno bastoncino, noun masculine, a small stick or rod or ski pole; bastoncini de pesce, fish fingers.
PORTUGUESE: bisbilhotar, verb, 1) to scheme, complicate, intrigue; 2) to chatter, gossip; 3) to whisper; 4) to examine, investigate, inquire into. um bisbilhoteiro, uma bisbilhoteira, noun masculine, feminine, an intriguer, tell-tale, gossiper, meddler.
ROMANIAN: băgăcios, băgăcioasă, adjective, masculine, feminine, intrusive, interfering, (self-) assertive; a băga, verb, to shove, dig, jab, tuck, put; a se băga, verb, reflexive, to get involved in, to impose oneself on.
SPANISH: un barrabás, noun masculine, a scoundrel; una barrabasada, noun feminine, a dirty trick.