• Apr

    Say That Again…?


    As you can imagine, learning another language can be quite a challenge and it’s easy to make embarrassing mistakes. One time I introduced my friend (a woman) as my sister, but that was minor. A far worse one was when I was telling one of my Mexican friends that I needed a plug for my apartment and used the wrong word (whore). My face was bright red over that one…

    I’m happy to say that I’m not the only one who really screws up with language. Several years ago, I was sitting with my friend Lynn (not her real name) who was telling me of her time in Cuba. One day in a public market she asked for “fruta papaya,” only to be hastily told: “No, no, no, you can’t say that.” In Cuba, as it turns out, “fruta papaya” refers to a woman’s genitals. The correct term is “fruta bomba.”

    Another time, I was sitting in a favorite restaurant in Bucerias, reading a copy of the book: Puerto Vallarta on 49 Brain Cells a Day, a fictional account of life in Mexico, by local author Gil Gevins.

    In one story, Gil was at a party with his wife and he was practicing his Spanish. When he was talking to the host, he was telling him how much he loved seafood, that it was incredibly cheap, rich and delicious.

    Unfortunately, he used the wrong word. The word for seafood is “mariscos” and Gil used the word “maricones,” an unsavory term for gay men.

    I laughed so hard that the tears were pouring down my face.

    Later that night I was reading another story about Gil and his cousin Lenny in a retreat where a fair bit of Peyote was being passed around. Gil and cousin weren’t impressed because the group leader was an Argentinian dude trying to pass himself off as a Huichol Indian.

    Neither Gil nor his cousin bought it and they left. As they were trekking back to civilization, Lenny turned to Gil and said: “Maestro Lorenzo es un pendejo.”

    As luck would have it, I learned what “pendejo” meant that morning and I was laughing before I read the English translation, which was: “Master Lorenzo is an asshole.”

    Gotta love learning another language. You never know how it will help you.

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