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May I have a word: Lingering at the table long after the meal has been served

If we invent a word for it, might more Americans savor the sustenance of a good postprandial conversation?

For many Europeans, the best part of the meal comes when it ends.Adobe Stock/Gregory Lee - stock.adobe.com

Last time, I asked you to come up with an English equivalent for the Spanish word sobremesa and the Italian dopopranzo, which mean “lingering around the table to talk after a meal.”

David Wood, who seems to live an enviably globetrotting life, had an observation to share, rather than a coinage. He wrote: “I grew up in Mexico with sobremesa and later in life added dopopranzo while living in Sicily. I find that the lifestyles in Mexico and Italy lend themselves to a more relaxed food-centered social gathering.

“This naturally allows for sobremesa / dopopranzo on a regular basis, in contrast to our sadly deficient meal scenes — which may account for our lack of an appropriate word.” David gives me hope: Is it possible we could will the practice into being here by giving it a name? According to the now-controversial Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which holds that one’s native language influences how one thinks, it may well be!

I had heard rumors that an equivalent also exists in French — which makes sense, because the French, like their Mediterranean neighbors, more nearly live to eat than the other way around. A reliable French-speaking source looked into this matter and wrote to me triumphantly: “Just in from Paris: refaire le monde — literally, ‘set the world to rights.’” Several online language threads offer corroboration for this delightful notion of setting about solving the world’s ills once fortified by a good meal in the right company.


Nancy O’Leary, of Gloucester, had France in mind when she suggested aprèsation, defining it as “the conversation that goes on après dinner” and adding “I think/hope enough people are familiar with this French word” — which, of course, means “after.”

Karin Benson, of Greenfield, suggested the more Boston-accented aftasuppa, explaining, “This can be a lovely, lazy interlude at the end of the day but is subject to people spouting off. As a kid in a big, talkative North Shore family, I used it as part of an arsenal of tactics to avoid doing dishes.”


Evelyn Carver, of Middleboro, wrote: “Sitting around the table thinking and talking . . . How about ruminating? Like cows do with their cud.” Which is a bit uncouth but is amusing all the same. Since it merely splits the difference between the meaning that has to do with humans, “think deeply about something,” and the cow-related one, however, it’s really just an extension of the meaning of an existing word.

Steve Poltorzycki, of Arlington, went maverick to coin dinnertia. Which is great except that to me it implies the people experiencing it are half-asleep.

Samantha Timmerman, of Melrose, Mass., and Vion, France, sent me no fewer than 20 coinages and thereby wins a perseverance prize that I’ve created just for her. Congrats, Samantha! DigesTable is my favorite among her suggestions, despite that if you use it, everyone will think you said digestible and have no idea what you actually meant.

Another table-related coinage came from John Parsons, of Durham, N.H., who wrote: “If you’re also having a little pie, you could call it Table Talk.”

I received a couple of yak-related coinages: postprandi-yak, from Marcia Scowcroft, of Framingham, and yakon from Len DeAngelis, of Newport, R.I. Also a few after coinages: Jonathan, Beth, and Becky Winickoff put their heads together and came up with aftergab. Linda Y. Goldstein, of Salem, wrote: “I was thinking of the afterglow of a good dinner with friends, and afterchow came to mind. Wish it rhymed.” The word that Linda Muldoon, of Braintree, proposed does rhyme: afterslow. This portmanteau is as pleasingly poetic as what it refers to, but I’m afraid its meaning isn’t obvious.


I received some linger portmanteaus too: lingermore, from Liz Diamond, and dinnerlinger, from Kathryn Fuller, of London.

And, notably, mealingering or meallingering, submitted in one or both spellings by Christina Devore; Josh Levine, of Needham; the above-mentioned Linda Muldoon; Wendy Schwartz; Normund Strautin, of Chelsea; and Priscilla Welsh, of East Greenwich, R.I.

I don’t believe I’ve ever before received the same coinage from as many as six people. So this time let’s let the word that wins bragging rights be decided by majority — or, really, plurality — rule. Congrats to all the mealingerers! And here’s hoping that you too, dear reader, find the time and the occasions to mealinger often.

Now Bridget Rodriguez, of Cambridge, wants “a word for the people you recognize in your neighborhood but have never met or spoken to. After years of seeing them, you feel like you know them.” She added, “Almost daily I’m searching for this word!”

Send your ideas to me at Barbara.Wallraff@globe.com by noon on Friday, May 27, and kindly include where you live. Responses may be edited.

Barbara Wallraff is a writer who lives in Cambridge, Mass., and London.