Monday, December 30, 2013

Mi Errore

Oh, the joys of learning a new language!  Nick’s Top 5 from 2013:

#5…At the Post Office
     “Per favore, ho bisogno un frescobaldi.” Clearly a sign of a hangover when you ask for a winery (among other uses of the often-heard Frescobaldi name), instead of a stamp (francobollo).

#4…At the Fruit Stand
      “Anche, tre pesce per favore.” The vendor's puzzled expression alerts you to having asked for “3 fish” (pesce) to be added your order, instead of 3 peaches (pesca). The good news is that you more quickly recognize this mistake…when you repeat the error several times over the next month!

#3…At the Meat Market
     Explaining in your caveman Italian that for dinner you’d like to make simple American-style hamburgers, and asking for a “mezza-kilo di cane macinata.” You think you notice a hint of a smile from the otherwise curmudgeonly butcher, who kindly gives you ground beef (carne) instead of the ground dog (cane) you requested. 

#2…At the Bar
     Casually flicking away something under your eye while talking with the bartender, who asks why you think he’s “up to something?!” A bar brawl is avoided when realizing that your gesture was inadvertently similar to the one used in Italy to suggest that someone is scheming.  

And #1…At the Bakery
     Many simple English words need only an “-e” or “-a” or "-o" added to translate into Italian: error is errore; carrot is carota; American is Americano. So, it seems perfectly reasonable to point to the delicious looking fig pastry at the bakery, while asking for “una biscotta di figa.” But this is a mistake you only make once, when learning that "figa" means you've actually just asked for a (term for female genitalia that wouldn't be used in polite conversation) cookie. Stupido Americano!