Serena bit into the cinder orange and absently wiped the juice away as it ran down her chin. Chewing, she held the fruit up and examined it closely. While named “orange” it in no way resembled the oranges based on the Old Earth fruit that she was used to. For one thing, you could eat the skin and then it wasn’t even colored orange. In fact, it more resembled a pear that tasted like a cross between a pear and a mango. Different, but very good, she decided.
“Loren, why is this called an orange? It doesn’t look like an Old Earth orange and it definitely doesn’t taste like one,” she asked the toy maker. They were there so Melia could help Loren “test” his toy creations.
“It’s one of those interpretation fails that stuck around,” Loren told her, smiling. “The Taland name of the fruit is narja, and that sounded close to naranja which I believe in an Old Earth language is the word for your orange. Some of the Terrans we first met thought it sounded close, so it became an ‘orange’. And the trees grow with cinder trees, so ‘cinder orange’.”
“Well, whatever it is, it’s good. Thank you,” Serena said. She glanced down at Melia who had put the toys aside in favor of the fruit and was busily chewing through her own narja.
“Dis good, Mama,” the little girl mumbled around a mouthful of fruit.
“I know, baby. Do you want to take one back for Daddy?” Serena asked.
“Yes, please. And more for us?” Melia asked, her eyes wide as she gazed up at her mother.
Serena laughed. “Yes, sweetie. We can get more.” She turned to Loren. “Thank you for introducing us to this. I guess I’m going back to the fruit vendor and picking up more!”
As they wandered back through the colorful, bustling market to buy more cinder oranges, and other produce, Serena thought about how languages morphed and changed over the years through interpretation fails and by absorbing words from other languages. She liked the concept of “interpretation fail.” It explained a lot, like the Taland word “narja” becoming the Terran word “orange.” She wondered how many other words were products of interpretation fails that had simply been absorbed into the local language. She smiled as the anthropologist in her outlined another research project.
“Mama! Fruits almost gone! Hurry!” Melia exclaimed, pointing to the fruit vendor’s stall. She tugged on her mother’s hand and Serena switched out of “anthropologist mode” and back into “mother mode”.
“Yes, sweetie. I see,” Serena answered.
Mother and daughter hurried over to the stall and Melia immediately reached for the yellow-green cinder oranges. There were four left in the basket.
“We’ll take all four, please,” Serena said, holding out her credit scanner.
“Of course! I see the young one has taken a liking to our narja fruit,” the vendor, an older woman with a still-bright crest of blues and greens, said. Serena’s scanner pinged when the transaction completed and she picked up the narjas.
“Yes, she has! She claims to want to save one for her daddy, but I think I’ll have to hide it until he gets home!” Serena laughed, putting the fruit into her bag.
“Here,” the vendor said, handing Serena a second bag. “Let the little one carry one home herself, then perhaps she’ll remember to save the others for daddy.”
“Thank you! That’s a great idea!” Serena replied. She put one narja into the bag and handed it to Melia.
“Here, sweetie. Can you carry this home for Daddy?” she asked her daughter.
“Okay, Mama. I carry it for Daddy,” Melia said, grabbing the bag and clutching it to her chest.
Serena smiled at the vendor. “Thank you so much. We’ll see you in a few days, I’m sure.”
“I look forward to it,” the vendor said, smiling. She waggled her long fingers at Melia. “Bye-bye little one. See you soon.”
Melia gave her a big smile. “Bye! Tank you!”
Serena slung the heavy bag of vegetables and meat over her shoulder and taking Melia’s hand, started back toward the lot where she’d left the ranch rover.
Market days were always good days.
This week’s MOTE prompt came from Cedar Sanderson: The juice of the fruit ran down her chin as she bit into it… The result was a small snippet of every-day life for Serena, the xenoarchaeologist, and her daughter, the newly designated toy-tester. My prompt went to Padre: The hole in the ocean was a success. Pop on over to the MOTE site to see what everybody did with their prompt challenges!