While I was living in Latin America, for three months of the two years I was there, I ate breakfast every morning with the Silva family. They were native Spanish speakers and lived in a small city that was called Vista Alegre (happy view). Every morning the mother of the household would wake up very early to go to the bakery and pick up fresh rolls for us to eat. They were always delicious.
Quite often she would also make a breakfast drink that is called “kwaw-care”. They appeared to be made out of cooked oatmeal, chocolate, and milk. I grew to deeply love my regular morning drink of “kwaw-care” and really looked forward to it. I had not heard the word “kwaw-care” before and tried to look it up in the dictionary but could not find anything even remotely close. I then looked up the word for oatmeal and it was “avena” [ah-ben-ah].
I continued drinking my “kwaw-care” for the next few months and quickly it became a “household” word for me. I would go to breakfast at the Silva’s and most eagerly await my daily dose of “kwaw-care”.
It was not until I was about to move on to another city that I finally solved the great mystery of what “kwaw-care” really was. I was in the Silva’s kitchen and saw the mother preparing “kwaw-care” and all of the sudden it dawned on me! She was taking the oatmeal out of a box of “Quaker Oats” and that is how they pronounced “Quaker” — “kwaw-care”! I suddenly laughed out loud and began to lovingly tease the family a little bit about it. I asked them why they did not just call it “avena” since that was the real name for oatmeal. They did not have a good answer.
The more I thought about it, I realized that it must be a common language phenomenon that happens all the time all over the world in different cultures. With certain consumer products their brand names become so familiar that people begin to inadvertently use them as the actual name for the product. For example, if I have a cut, I use a bandaid™ (which is actually a brand name). Or, if I might have a cold, I use a Kleenex™ regardless of whether it is actually that brand or not.
So, the next time you are in Latin America and someone makes you “kwaw-care”, you will know exactly what it is!! If any of you have other examples in English or from other countries, please write in and let us know about it.
P.S. – If anyone out there working for Quaker Oats™, Kleenex™ or the Bandaid™ company reads this, we’ll gladly accept advertising money from you. We will even send out a follow-up newsletter so everyone is sure to know about your products!Learn Spanish, Spanish Culture, Spanish Words