If the story of travel over the past few decades has been its transformation from a competitive service into a dismal commodity (this is my theory), there is still an occasional flash of light in yon bleak tunnel.
The flashers of these lights (a phrase that didn’t seem quite so wrong until I typed it out) are to be cherished, and when possible rewarded. This is an extension of my theory, and I have lately had a chance to carry it out.
A great many years ago my husband, daughter and I arrived very late for a flight, owing to a series of unfortunate events, and were offered two seats in first class.
My husband valiantly insisted on taking the coach seat so that my daughter and I could sit up front. When we all reunited after disembarkation in Chicago, our daughter, then too young to know better, asked my husband if he had eaten the enchilada or the salad.
“I ate,” he declared through gritted teeth, “THE PEANUTS.”
There is nothing new under the sun, according to Ecclesiastes, who would have made a terrible public relations consultant for the travel industry. Because if there aren’t new things to sell it is necessary to make up new words for old things, or new words for things that aren’t really things per se but that you’re trying to promote into being things.
Which is why I am introducing my own neologism and hot travel trend: wamping.
“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.