I was deboning fresh salmon prior to baking it when Gabriel came and asked permission to feel the fish. I said OK, and he immediately washed his hands. As he was doing this, I said, “Just don't lamutak the fish.” The English term escaped me. (To my non-Tagalog speaking readers, this is pronounced la-mu-tak, not lay-moo-tahk.)
With some hand motions, I tried to show him what lamutak meant to make sure he got it.
I turned away briefly, and when I looked back, Gabriel was doing exactly what I told him not to do.
“No, no, no!” I exclaimed. “That’s lamutak! That’s lamutak!”
Gabriel took a flake of fish and left the kitchen. A few minutes later, he came back to return what looked like a small fish ball.
“No,” I said. “Don’t put that back. That’s already lamutak.”
How frustrating it was to be groping for the right word. It was not even close to the tip of my tongue. I asked Gabriel what lamutak might be in English.
“Squish?” he asked.
“Yeah,” but squish sounds a little lame. It’s probably closer to “mash”—with an attitude.
Gabriel learned one Tagalog word today, and I learned that if I wanted to say “mash” and evoke a sense of grossness, lamutak says it better. Save the finesse for later.