March 30, 2011

Rome. October, 1984

Near misses. In language, as in life, they can veer between the humorous and the dangerous. (When learning American Sign Language, I responded incorrectly to a question, and when I suggested that I was “close,” the teacher replied, “Yes, close the way ‘Please call me’ and ‘Please kill me’ are close.” Point taken.) Fortunately these slips of the tongue (foreign or otherwise) are rarely fatal. In Mallorca once, Jay’s mother ordered pañuelos tostados (toasted handkerchiefs) instead of panecillos (rolls) for breakfast. A friend wanted to tell some Italian neighbors that she had two sons (figli) and proudly announced, Ho due fichi (“I have two figs.”) In Paris, another friend confidently translated haricots (green beans) as “haircuts.” My favorite language missteps, however, come with an alarming frequency from my wonderful friend and earnest Italophile Patti, whose “greatest hits” of off-translations include (pictured) “The National Bank of Soap” (lavoro actually means “worker.”) And the Roman fried cheese specialty mozzarella in carozza (“carriage”) is more likely to be ordered by Patti as in carrozeria (“car repair shop.”) Please kill me.

1 comment:

  1. Dolla Bill Y'allMarch 31, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    ...and that jacket and those glasses are just now coming back into style among NYC hipsters.