Issue 186, page 3

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Guestmudgeon Joseph Byrd rebukes those who fry beans twice

My gripe is the mistranslating of frijoles refritos as "refried beans," a false interpretation that has sneaked its way into general use. 

As Diana Kennedy writes in her classic The Cuisines of Mexico, "The Mexicans have a habit of qualifying a word to emphasize the meaning by adding the prefix re-. They will get the oil very hot (requemar), or something will be very good (retebien). Thus refrito means well fried, which they certainly are, since they are fried until they are almost dry." (She then references Diccionario de Mexicanismos.) This error has become so pervasive that even Oxford SuperLex for Windows makes it. 

I suspect this has happened because, unfortunately, almost no [American] household cook has ever made refritos from scratch, which is a pity, because they are utterly wonderful, a world away from the canned stuff.

Thanks, Joseph, for your remarks refuting these regrettably false translations. We're not experts on Mexican Spanish, though, so watch our letters page for possible rebuttals.

Warm regards,

For those dozing at the back of the class:

English also has words beginning with re- which do not imply repetition. For example, rebukes, remarks, refuted, regrettably, rebuttals and regards

Have you heard or read similar or equally distressing usages?

Do tell us. 

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