The word spicy is way too indistinct. Something can be loaded with marjoram, a spice, and we don’t say it’s spicy. Same with cinnamon, cloves, dill, and many others. When we say spicy, what we mean is hot, in terms of Scoville units. And that’s a poor substitute, because hot is for heat, and we all know you can grab a room temperature habanero and still suffer immensely. How many times have we all had this conversation?
This is hot!
Spicy hot or hot hot?
English, what are you doing? Letting us down, that’s what.
But I guess we can’t blame language. We’re the ones who make it up. Can we get a linguistic assist, perhaps from Bengali? Italian? Call us up here at the studio, folks. The lines are open.
What we want, I think, is a word meaning “having pronounced flavor.” Any flavor. Whatever flavor it has. An all-purpose adjective. Because we’ve all reached for an amplifying -y at times: “These muffins are pumpkin-y.” Ugh. No wonder the U.S. has fallen behind in this thing which itself has no name: a growth in aptitude of its language. The Japanese have long had umami. Who is the English-speaking Kikunae Ikeda, the inventor of that term? Where are this generation’s English-language cultivars? Elbows down at Chi-Chis, I guess, blowing on sizzling fajitas, because they are too…