A correspondent named Dave wrote me with the following query:
It’s about “Imam bayildi”, a fantastic Turkish eggplant dish that I learnt recently, usually translated as “the imam fainted” with a convoluted folkstory explaining the name (these stories are funny and cool: the imam fainted when he realised the amount of olive oil in the dish, the imam fainted because of how exquisite it tastes etc). Helping my sister-in-law record an evolving recipe, I came across this blog entry with a comment that suggests two meanings for bayil (“The verb BAYIL-MAK has 2 meanings in Turkish. 1. fainted 2. enjoy something very much…”), the second of which, if good, sacrifices fun for sense… What do you think?
What I thought was “Damn, I’ve been telling that story about the imam fainting for years—you mean it’s just bad definition?” I looked in my Langenscheidt and sure enough, it said “bayılmak 1. to faint, to swoon; 2. to like greatly, to be enraptured (by).” So, Turkish speakers: does the dish’s name mean simply ‘the imam enjoyed it a lot,’ or is ‘fainted’ what native speakers understand by it?