Tuesday, August 28, 2018

when in rome

I am a "go-to" guy on a handful of topics.

Spanish is not one of them.

If you want to know the subtleties of Spanish, go see Hank -- or Felipe -- or Kim. But I am not your guy.

That is why I was a bit confused when a manager at one of my favorite local restaurants asked me: "Why do so many Canadians [here, that means any European-looking person] respond with 'finito' when I ask them if they have finished eating? Do they think we are Italian?"

He is absolutely correct on all scores. I repeatedly hear foreigners in Mexico say "finito" when they are done with their meal. But they are using the wrong language.

"Finito" means "finished" in Italian. There is a Spanish word "finito," but it has an entirely different meaning. It means "finite" -- as in, God's Grace is infinite; my patience is finite. And that, certainly, is not what most foreigners mean when they say "finito" here.

Here is my tyro linguist hint. When you are in Venice, and you have just finished off the best cuttlefish cooked in its own ink that you have ever tasted, feel free to let loose with that "finito" you have had corked up for use somewhere other than a Spanish-speaking country.

But, if you are at Papa Gallo's in San Patricio and have just had the world's best coctel de camarones, and the waiter gives you that all-knowing lifted eyebrow, stifle the urge to practice your Italian. and respond with a hearty "terminado" (even though that sounds ominously like something out of labor law or a discredited CIA practice).

As for me, having tempted my taste buds, I am searching for a good cuttlefish recipe. The trick will be catching the cuttlefish.

If I do, I can say this essay is "finito."

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