02 May 2007

On Sex in Ukraine

By that, I mean male/female.

At a Ukrainian friend's the other day. My wife and I were having a typical five-hour lunch with two 60 year old women. Between the first course of dill-heavy, noodle soup and the second of mlintsi, a crepe filled with ground beef or innards (depending on your host), one of the women asked me how we prepare turkey in

I explained the process, but got stuck on the word "to bake" in Ukrainian. I couldn't think of the past tense form of the verb that I needed to use. I circumlocuted and, at the end of my story, asked how I would say the word, pekty, in past tense.

Pekty, one of the women said.

No, I said. That's the infinitive.

Oh, the other woman said. Pekla.

No, I said again. That's the past tense for women. What about for a man?

Both women looked to each other, their eyes wide open in real surprise, and laughed hysterically. Neither one of them actually knew the past tense form of pekty that denoted a man doing the action.

Language builds a context of the reality we live in. In their reality, they've used that form of pekty so little, maybe not at all, that they've forgotten how to say it.

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