My lemon is your lime

As a kid you learn the language of your parents and this language gives meaning to the things around you, to this world. Language is a given, it is simple. There is a word for everything there is in this world and you never second guess the name of anything. An apple is an apple, a cloud is a cloud and a person is a person.

But then you learn a new language, or multiple new ones, and suddenly there are multiple words to describe your world. Sometimes the translation makes sense and words from different languages actually have the same meaning for you, but sometimes they don’t, and this is where language becomes a funny thing.

Imagine the English word “lemon”. Probably this word creates an image of a yellow sour fruit, maybe a nice tea or some fried fish pop up as well, maybe your face might pucker up, but you’ll think about this yellow thing right?

Well, unless you are Dutch,  because in Dutch a “limoen”; pronounced as lemoon, with the oo sound as in good; is not yellow! We decided to call a lime a limoen and a lemon a citroen. While limoen and lemon are actually similar words they don’t mean the same thing!

I can’t stop my ADHD brain from wondering about how this happened. I believe the word limoen wasn’t a part of the Dutch language when it was developed, I mean this country is definitely not sunny enough for lemon trees to naturally grow, so we probably created the word when we started importing them from a country with a more pleasant climate. But then what happened? We wanted lemons but got limes instead, without us understanding the difference? Maybe limes were cheaper to produce and because we didn’t know the difference it was easy to trick us into believing that a lime actually is a lemon. And when we found out we had been fooled we just came up with a similar name for a real lemon to hide our stupidity? They didn’t fool us, we just have our own names for both of them!

I know this is not what happened, there are few sunny countries that share our naming and in the end it’s no more than a difference between Latin and Greek influences. But things like this just make my ADHD brain wonder, they make me make up a story in order to make some sense of things that do not at all make any. It’s confusing enough that two words mean the same thing, but one word meaning two different things just makes me loose faith in the validity of what we all assume to be the truth. Is a real lemon, yellow or green? I no longer know…

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