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Session 10

Nowadays we judge status and wealth with cars and clothes – but how was it measured in the past? Today we find out why salt was so important!

Yeroo kana sadarkaafi qabeenya konkolaataawwaniifi uufataan murteessina – garuu dur akkamiin safarama turee? Har’a soogiddi maaliif akka barbaachisaa ta’e ilaalla!

Sessions in this unit

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    Activity 1

Activity 1

Why was salt so important?

People’s perception of salt has changed from the past to the present – so how has it changed and why?

Ilalchi namoonni waa’ee soogiddaa qaban yeroo darbe irraa hanga ammaatti jijjiirameera – kanaaf akkamiin jijjiiramee maaliif?

Before you listen

Consider the following questions:
1) How do we measure wealth nowadays?
2) Do you think salt is a good or bad thing?
3) Why could salt have been important in the past?

Listen to the audio and take the quiz.

Show transcript Hide transcript

Ashamaa! Odeessaalee Afaan Inglizii sirri ta’an akka hubattuuf bakka itti si barsiifnutti - caqasuuf baga nagana dhufte! An Firaoldha.

And I’m James! Hi everybody!

So James, how do people in the UK show their wealth or status?

Well, in many different ways! The clothes they wear, the cars they drive, the shops they visit or the size or location of their house. How about in your country?

Akkuma kana namoonni biyya keenyattis mana jireenyaafi konkolaataa isaaniin qabeenya isaanii agarsiiftu.

Kutaa kiliippii jalqabaa har’aa keessatti leeksikoograafar Susie Dent, akkatti soogiddibara durii sadarkaa namoota mul’isuuf fayyadu wayita ibsitu haa caqasnu. Kun yoom jalqabe jettii?

If you look in the Oxford English dictionary, there are just entry after entry which clearly reflects how important it (salt) has been. But it also became a great symbol of social wealth and social status. You’ll find this in medieval times right up to the 18th century.

Wow, salt was important in medieval times?! But it is so common nowadays!

That’s true! Salt was very expensive, and was therefore a way to show you were wealthy, that you could afford salt.

Afford jechuun danda’uu jechuudha. Let’s listen on - how was salt used to show people’s social status?

The rank of guests at a banquet for example was gauged by exactly where they sat in relation to a silver salt cellar that was placed on the table. The distinguished guests would sit at the head of the table, above the salt, and people who sat below the salt, furthest away from the host, were the ones who were least important.

So the closer to the salt that people were sat, the more important they were! Two common phrases we use in English because of this are above the salt and below the salt – meaning ‘important’ or ‘not important’.

Above the salt jechuun barbaachisaa jechuudha, below the salt jechuun kan hinbarbaachifne jechuudha. Let’s keep listening to find more of these expressions.

If you look at Shakespeare, for example, you will find salt as a symbol of liveliness and freshness. So Shakespeare talks about the salt of youth.

So someone who is lively, dammaqaa, and passionate, fedhiifi jaalala qabu, about their job for example has the salt of youth?

Exactly! Let’s listen for more.

And of course in the Bible you’ll find the salt of the earth, people who have great kindness and integrity.

Salt of the earth jechuun nama, kind gara-laafessa ta’e akkasumas, integrity amanamummaa qabu tokko ibsuudha.

Yes! People who do things for others are the salt of the earth.

So all of these phrases are very positive, which shows how important salt was to people in the past.

That’s right, but that seems strange! Nowadays, salt is something which people try to avoid. A salty diet is not very good for you.

Has this changed the way that people use the word salt James?

Yes, in fact it has! Let’s listen to the next part of the recording – what does the presenter say about how we think about salt nowadays?

But now, in modern times there’s been a shift in that, you know, we demonise it now, as a bad thing.

Yes, actually in slang we might just be able to detect that downturn because salty now, in slang, means irritable really or hostile even.

The speaker says that we demonise salt. Demonise means to make something seem evil.

Salty jechi jedhu nama  aggressive dheekkamaa, ykn bitter mufataa kan ibsuudha.
So, have the phrases we use with ‘salt’ changed with people’s opinions?

That’s right – people’s attitudes to salt are now quite salty!

Are there any other negative phrases with ‘salt’?

To rub salt in the wound means to make someone who is already sad or upset feel even worse.

To rub salt in the wound jechuun nama duraanu miira gaddaa ykn aarii keessa jiru tokko akka daran hammaatu gochu jechuudha. So if you were really hungry, and someone was eating a pizza in front of you, would that rub salt in the wound?

Yes! That would definitely rub salt in the wound!

How about you? Do you have a salty attitude to salt? Are you salt of the earth? Here are some other phrases we learnt today – above the salt jechuun barbaachisaa, below the salt jechuun kan hinbarbaachisne jechuudha. To rub salt in the wound jechuun nama silumaa miirri gadda ykn aarii itti dhagahame jiru tokko akka itti caaluu gochu jechuudha. The salt of youth nama jabinaafi fedhii qabu ibsuudha. Thanks for joining us and see you next week for more Listen Here!

Listen to today’s clip in full here

Source: The Food Programme

Language features

above/below the salt
To be above/below the salt means to be important/unimportant.

In medieval times lords used to sit above the salt.
In medieval times, servants used to sit below the salt.

the salt of youth
To have the salt of youth means to have vigour and passion.

He has worked exceptionally hard on the project – he really has the salt of youth.

salt of the Earth
To be the salt of the Earth means someone is kind and has integrity.

Peter always does his best to help his colleagues – he is salt of the Earth.

to rub salt in the wound
To rub salt in the wound means to make someone who is already sad or upset even more sad or upset.

Not only did Rob lose his job, but he also lost his house, which really rubbed salt in the wound.

Why was salt so important?

4 Questions

Choose the correct answer.
Deebii sirrii ta’e fili.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
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How is wealth and status judged in your country? Tell us on our Facebook group.

Join us for our next episode of Listen Here, when we will learn more useful language and practise your listening skills.
Sagantaa Listen Here kan qooqa daran faayida-qabeessa ta’an keessatti barannuufi daandeettiiwwan dhageettiikee ittiin shaakaltutti yeroo itaanu walitti deebina.

Session Vocabulary

  • wealth



    Yeroo durii

    Dandeettii kaffaluu




    hammaataa/kan irratti waliif hin galamne