This fills me with rage.
I should probably preface this with the fact that I live with my elderly mother to take care of her, and that she and I inherited from my father a profoundly toxic, abusive culture of communication, where words were a symbol of power and the ability to hurt and threaten others without saying so outright. But this still drives me up the fucking wall!
For 99.999% of the English-speaking world, the word ‘spicy’ has one and only one meaning when referring to food - it means that it has capsaicin in it. It means that it contains oils derived from the tissues of one of many different species and cultivars of the capsicum plant. It means that is characterized, in whole or in part, by the presence of a ‘spicy’ mouth-burning flavor, one that is more technically referred to as ‘pungent.’
Not to my mother. Not to this one 69-year-old woman, born and raised in Miami, whose maternal family was from Augusta KY and whose paternal family is from Cincinnati OH. To her, and only to her, despite the fact that she has never in her long life encountered a single other person who speaks this way, spicy means possessing or characterized by the flavor of things colloquially known as “spices.” Like cinnamon, or allspice, or Old Bay, or nutmeg.
Despite the fact that all of these things taste different from one another.
Despite the fact that there is no ‘spice’ compound that interacts with our taste buds.
Despite the fact that no other human being I have ever met uses the word ‘spicy’ like this.
Despite the fact that I’ve pointed all this out to her dozens of times.
Despite the fact that people she’s speaking to have expressed confusion over her word choice dozens of times.
So what word does she use to describe what are more properly called ‘pungent’ foods? She says that they’re hot. That’s her word. “Is the food hot?” “No, it’s cold.” “No, I mean, is it like peppery hot? Does it have a kick to it?” “Oh, do you mean if it’s spicy?” “No, I don’t care if it has cinnamon in it, I want to know if it’s hot or not.”
Drives me UP THE FUCKING WALL.