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A quiet invasion 22/09/2013

Posted by allthingsro in language, quirks.
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The Romanianisation of NW9 continues apace. Kingsbury now boasts three stores selling Romanian food within five minutes’ walk of the tube. A Romanian nursery school has opened. When a barber shop closed down, it was replaced by a Romanian Church store. The Asian guy at the fish store asks me if I’m Romanian or Polish, this seeming to be the most logical explanation for being white in Kingsbury.

But this is the most surprising thing: Kingsbury Discount Store & Pound Plus is like a poundland version of Aladdin’s Cave. You’ll find everything, from cheap’n’cheerful sunglasses to Pyrex cooking dishes to cleaning products and air freshener. A Romanian lady pushing a pram buys some discounted nail varnish. The Asian shopkeeper asks her “pungă?”

Now this word happened to be my favourite Romanian word for a good five years of my existence as a Romanian language learner. To a Romanian it sounds completely banal – it means plastic bag. But to me, boldly ploughing through Colloquial Romanian by Dennis Deletant, it sounds so much more appealing than English “bag”, which rhymes with drag and even the vowel “a” sounds kind of draggy. Pungă elevates the simple shopping bag, granting it a whole two syllables and making it somehow exotic without difficult sounds for the clumsy English tongue.

(I now say that cuişoare – clove – is my favourite Romanian word, but I still hold a candle for good old trusty pungă.)

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