Why you should care
Because it hurts so good.
Part of an occasional series on unusual words we wish we had in English.
Honeyed yams, oven-fresh bread, warm apple pie. Just when we think we’re past the point of no return on Thanksgiving, Aunt Claire passes the stuffing. And before we can hand the bowl to Uncle Tim, we accidentally devour the whole thing. (Fine, it was no accident.) What’s the word for physically embodying the turkey you inhaled? Just ask the nation of Georgia.
shemomechama შემომეჭამა: to eat past the point of fullness because the food tastes so good
Shemomechama (shim-mo-mih-jahm-ah) literally translates to “I accidentally ate the whole thing,” says Tamuna Kiknadze at the Georgian Arts & Culture Center in Tbilisi, Georgia. While the word may be a mouthful to mumble, shemomechama also serves as a tidy way to describe the gutsy — nay, foolish — act of stuffing your stomach to near oblivion, just because you can’t bear to waste the delectable food that has you salivating like a kid in a candy store. A wise sage named Louis C.K. once quipped: “The meal is not over when I’m full; the meal is over when I hate myself.” Or at least until the heartburn kicks in.
Between Olive Garden’s unlimited breadsticks, the Fourth of July’s hot dog-eating folly and Texas’ deep-fried butter, you would think that overindulging on food is a unique American pastime. But Georgia, a country sandwiched between Russia and Turkey, takes dining to near-religious extremes. At supra — a traditional banquet feast — you’ll find glasses overflowing with homemade wine and beer as well as plates flooded with buttery boat breads, juicy khinkali dumplings, walnuts and cheeses and barbecued pork sizzled to perfection. According to legend, “If you die before going to a Georgian feast, you have insulted God.”
Neuroscientists say overeating isn’t all that surprising from an evolutionary perspective. “It makes sense to eat a lot when tasty food is available, because in our ancestral conditions, we couldn’t count on that happening very often,” says Sandra Aamodt, author of Why Diets Make Us Fat. Eating until we can’t breathe isn’t dumb; it’s built into our DNA — feel-good endorphins are released into your body after you chow down on delicious fat and carbs like a hog from Epicurus’ herd. Still, Aamodt cautions, don’t gorge yourself on Grandma’s sweet potato casserole until you no longer can, since consistent overeating will likely lead to slow weight gain over the years. Should you have a strong case of shemomechama this holiday season, resist! And practice “mindful eating” habits instead.
Which doesn’t sound nearly as fun as muscling through three slabs of steaks or watching your cousin swallow a pumpkin pie whole.