In Spanish, mordida literally means “a bite,” but it’s a kind of bribe. It predates the English phrase “put the bite on someone” by more than a hundred years. One proposed etymology for the Spanish term is that divers rescuing treasure from wrecked Spanish galleons were allowed, on their final dive, to keep as many coins as they could bring up crammed into their mouths. Another story goes that the underlings of a Spanish nobleman collected a special tax to help pay for his extensive dental work, then simply continued the practice after the work was paid for. Both of these colorful stories are probably too colorful to be believed. “Mordida!” is also a popular cry at birthday celebration in parts of Latin America, where the birthday boy or girl is encouraged by cheering guests to plunge face first into a cake. This is part of a complete episode.

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