What is with the name?
Monday, January 11, 2010 at 2:57PM
Nazila Merati

Banamak – pronounced "Baw-nahm-mac" , is literally translated to mean with salt. In colloquial terms, banamak means cute.  Silly name? Well, for a project that weaves food, culture, photos and snippets of one family’s stories, it works.  Life is full of salt – the salt of tears, the salt my mom uses to season food and the salt of many oceans crossed to get us here.

Incidentally, the opposite of  banamak is binamak pronounced "bee-nahm-mac" – which translates to without salt. If you are a dull boring person, you are binamak. You really don’t want to be known as a person that is binamak.

My parents came to this country with formal English language skills– the type of language training used by health professionals but wasn’t peppered with idiomatic  English.  When my parents met two nurses outside their apartment building in Chicago and they commented on how cute I was, my parents simply nodded and thanked them.  They immediately went back upstairs to look up the meaning of the word “cute”.  Relieved that it didn’t mean that I would eventually spend the rest of my life with a bag over my head,  they went off with their day. The word means a lot of to me.  It is symbolic of an event  that brought my parents closer to a foreign culture that they jumped in with feet first. 

On occasion, I am still considered banamak.


Article originally appeared on banamak.org (http://banamak.org/).
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