Everyone seems to know that tart means sour. The question should be asked, then what’s the difference between the two?
In Dutch, we see the same with the adjectives wrang and zuur.
The Dutch leading dictionary Van Dale suggests that wrang refers to something so sour that it wrings one’s lips.
I thought for a long time about the question of why we have an extra word next to sour. On Shabbat, I suddenly knew.
We use tart when we mean: [sour but] it should have been sweet(er)!
The fruit, the grapes, the wine, the life story, the difference between the good fortune of my brother and my misfortune, etc. These don’t just give or leave a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. They mourn that they aren’t any sweeter. The word tart contains a complaint, a disappointment.
Also when the word is used as a derogatory noun, there is a regret that this prostitute or old lady — also in Dutch: ouwe taart — isn’t any sweeter.
Dictionaries also seem troubled explaining all of the adjective ironic.
They tend to point out that irony can mean an unexpected development.
But it’s not an irony when someone after 20 years of infertility gives birth to a child. So we see that irony needs to be something negative. It would be an irony if she got a child years after giving up on infertility treatment. The new baby is not ironic but the time and nerves wasted in treatment are.
But just as with tart, it’s not just negative. It’s a negative that should have been positive. It’s bitter where it should have been sweet.
Ironically, he worked his whole life to get wealthy but ended up without a penny to his name while his lazy brother became rich by winning the lotto.
What is called sweets in English and Hebrew, the Dutch call zuurtjes if they are meant for sucking, which literally means: little sour ones. Of course, candy must be sweet but some are special because a little sour is added to enhance their taste: zuurtjes. (And a little sweet added makes sour stuff tastier.) For many years, my children, early-on well versed in the junk food universe, assumed that zuur was Dutch for sweet and so, zoet must be sour.
Isn’t the interface between sour, sweet, and bitter linguistically interesting?