Acosado de hambre! When Spanish-speaking people are really hungry, they often say “acosado de hambre.” The verb “acosar” is translated as “to hound” or “to harass.” So literally, they are saying that hunger is hounding or harassing them. What do you say when you’re really hungry?
My stomach is GROWLING.
I’m dying of hunger.
Thinking about this, I realized that we tend to exaggerate/personify hunger. Can hunger literally hound or harass? Does your stomach literally growl? And I seriously doubt that you’re starving or dying of hunger. However, when we hear these statements, we still understand what the person is saying. What would someone who doesn’t speak English say if you told them that your stomach was growling? Personally, I’d be a little freaked out. Is there a tiger in there?
Along the same lines, we are almost never actually being killed by hunger when we state that we’re “starving” or “dying.” Yet, everybody seems to know what it means. You can ask my parents, I’m big on exaggerations, but hunger seems to be something that EVERYBODY exaggerates, and apparently in more languages that just English. Hunger can’t harass either, it’s just slightly bothersome, but the Spanish idiom makes it seem a lot worse than it actually is.
Why do we do that? Maybe because it’s just so dang uncomfortable. Can we go as far as saying it’s a First-World country thing? To people actually experiencing starvation, our “hungry” is probably a lot closer to their “full.”
Because I was curious, I googled some other languages for hunger idioms.
German and Cornish(spoken in England)- “I’m as hungry as a wolf”- again, probably an exaggeration.
In Swahili, they have a saying that translates to “hunger weakens, but food satisfaction intoxicates” and what they mean is that while hunger weakens your body, a full stomach makes you too lazy.
I find this extremely interesting. We love full stomachs, and in Swahili-speaking nations, it’s considered a weakness.
Maybe our idioms and exaggerations of hunger really do come from our environments and availability/access to food. What are your thoughts?