Thursday, October 21, 2010

handsome errors

I need to work on my Spanish.

Each day I have spent in Oregon, I can feel at least five good Spanish words fall out of my head and shatter on the floor.  (I would have used the Spanish verb for "shatter," but it jumped from the ledge of my hippocampus on May 24.)

Even knowing my own handicap, I wallow in schadenfreude when I realize the life boat of language refugees is overbooked.

A case in point.  As we were driving back to Lincoln City from Seaside this past Saturday, my telephone rang.  That alone is odd.  I may get about two calls a week on my mobile.

It was my friend Ken.  And I could tell his Irish genes were busting to tell me a tale.

He and his family had just left their favorite Mexican restaurant in Olympia.  On the way out of the restaurant, they encountered two couples coming in.  The hostess asked, as hostesses are wont to do when the answer is obvious: "Four?"

The wife of one couple, who must had just returned from a very educational week in Cancun, responded: "No.  Guapo."

Now, confused, the hostess asked: "Excuse me."

To which, the semi-lingual wife responded: "Guapo.  [Counting her party] Uno.  Dos.  Tres. --"

And pointing to herself:  "Guapo."

Now, for all I know, despite her gender confusion, she may have been muy guapa.  And I certainly have no stones to cast about linguistic shifts.  We all have tales of embarrassing moments in improvisational Spanish.

When I began the process of retiring to Mexico, I received a lot of advice on where to live, how to develop patience, where to obtain my FM3.  But the most valuable advice I received was: learn Spanish.  And then use it.

Before I get on the airplane south, I need to pull out my Spanish programs and start learning the language again.

Even if I cannot learn it in three or guapo sessions.


Anonymous said...

??? And guapo would mean?

Anonymous said...

how funny! thanks, i needed a good chuckle to start my day.

teresa in l.s.

NWexican said...

Haaa, love that.. Once while somewhere in baja a nice gringa left a note at a bar to say the bartender Pedro was wonderful, and this is what she wrote:
"Pedo es mui maravillosa"

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- I apologize for being so presumptuous. I thought guapo was one of those Spanish words that had winnowed its way into American English. Like siesta or sombrero. When applied to men, guapo means handsome. (Thus the post title.) When applied to women (in its feminine form: guapa), it means pretty.

Teresa -- And it comes from your home state.

NWexican -- Latin roots can easily lead non-native speakers astray. The common misuse of embarazada being just one example -- and probably the punchline of many funny language mix-up tales.

Mike Nickell and Cynthia Johnson said...

It must be something about the 4...I remember in our 1st Spanish class Mike was reciting numbers, uno, dos, tres, nacho...

Anonymous said...

Sir, may I be so presumptuous as to ask why the German word, Schdenfreude, appears in an essay on Spanish?

Are you making some nuanced insinuation about the Boys in the Band?


Steve Cotton said...

Mike and Cynthia -- Even better.

ANM -- I was just trolling for your neo-Teutonic reaction. Are you ready for another lunch?

Krystal said...

My tale is equally embarrassing:

Picture a hot August day in Reno, NV...

The bride is 7 months pregnant and wearing a flowing white gown.

Her hispanic in-laws ask her how she's doing...

To which I replied "Estoy muy caliente" and promptly turned the deepest shade of red known to man. For the non-spanish speakers, I had used the slang term for "horny" instead of saying I'm hot which is "tengo calor". You only make a mistake once!

On a side note since you're in Oregon too, can you get the FM-3 in Portland or only in Mexico?

Theresa in Mèrida said...

very cute. my personal downfall is using introducir instead of presentar for introducing a person.
What do you get if four caballeros ride into a swamp? quatro cinco....


Al Polito said...

I'll have guapo chicken tacos, por favor.

Laurie said...

Everyone needs more practice when it comes to a second language. I am not ashamed to say I make big mistakes. not long ago I used a slang word that I did not know. I recently addressed a small group of women as a group of boobs. It's amazing how many words can mean boobs here! Now I learned another one. Mamas, pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, are boobs. Second syllable stressed are mothers.

Steve Cotton said...

Krystal -- Nice tale. The consulate in Portland at one time processed FM3 applications. I understand they have stopped doing it.

Theresa -- I have amused several people with your caballero story.

Al -- If I cooked them, they would not be too guapo.

Laurie -- I will undoubtedly do worse when I return in just over two weeks.