“Ojalá que sí,” my mother sometimes says, repeating a phrase she picked up while serving in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica nearly 25 years ago. The words, in Spanish adopted from Arabic, express the hope that God (Allah) willing, something will work out.
The phrase was ubiquitous in the town where my parents served for two years after their retirement, and it has worked its way into our family, Those members who speak Spanish may use it, and everyone else understands it. Will everyone be able to make it to Thanksgiving in Vermont this year? Ojalá que sí.
I began thinking about the ways that travel has altered the vocabulary of my large clan after I took an online dialect quiz that was briefly and explosively popular via Facebook before overwhelming digital traffic shut it down. In 25 questions about the words I use and the ways I pronounce them, the quiz accurately pinpointed my birthplace and home territory in central Connecticut. Same for my daughter and son-in-law.
I wonder, though, what the quiz would make of ojalá que sí or some of the other outside words and phrases that have made it into the vocabulary of my family.