Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Verb "To Beer": A Comparative Study

So I came home from some errands to hear that my wife was on the phone with her elderly mother and her caregiver back in Romania, a Saturday ritual.

I hear only one side of the conversation: 

"Bere? Bravo! Va Berim!"

Eu si prietenul meu Virgil ne berim!
I'm working really hard on my Romanian, as well as studying the Romanian Constitution in preparation to take their citizenship test. So I understand the exchange, even though it included something I had never heard before: 

"Beer? Bravo! You're drinking Beer together!"

My wife had used a verb I had never encountered, "a se beri," "to drink beer with someone."

I asked her if that's really even a verb or whether she had just coined it. She thought it was something she had heard. A quick internet search showed that this reflexive verb really is a thing, evidenced by another Romanian tweeting "We drink beer together tonight, yes?"

"A se beri" is a reflexive, on the pattern of  "a se întâlni," "to meet with someone."

In English we also have the verb "to beer," but it means "to give a beer." You can walk into a bar or a party and say, "Beer me!" and native speakers understand that means, "Quick! Give me a beer so I can get my buzz on like the rest of you!"

And this verb in English is by no means a modern coinage. It is attested as early as 1870:

No doubt he then can feed us, wine us, beer us,
And cook us something that can warm and cheer us.

(Daryl Sidney, "His First Brief. A Comedietta" in Drawing-Room Plays and Parlour Pantomimes compiled by Clement Scott [Robson and Sons], pp. 303-304.) 

Here is what may be the world's largest beer can, at the Tuborg Plant in Pantelimon, directly across the street from the cemetery where my late father-in-law is buried. There are Romanians who won't drink Tuborg because they worry that the bodies of those dead somehow contaminate the water of that region. Personally, I drink Tuborg and enjoy it.

Despite the ability to say "to wine and dine" in English, the parallel construction does not exist in Romanian. You cannot say, "Ne vinim!" "Let's drink wine together!"

Or maybe I can successfully coin it?  

No comments:

Post a Comment