One of the greatest things about growing up with parents whose first language was different to the one spoken in my homeland is that there will inevitably be some misunderstandings when trying to communicate with each other, often due to pronunciation.
My dear Colombian mother's first language was Spanish, and while she has certainly adopted a working knowledge of basic to intermediate English in the thirty-plus years of living in the good ol' U.S. of A., there have been moments in which a slight change in pronunciation due to her accent have led to some lost in translation gaffes.
The following is a selection of some of the more memorable highlights.
My mother once needed to go to the airport to catch an early flight and no one at the time could provide her with the lengthy drive from our Miami home to Fort Lauderdale International Airport to catch a low-cost flight. To solve her transportation problem, she enlisted the help of a service she referred to as "Super Charo."
Her utterance evoked a mental image of the eccentric Spanish singer dressed in a Superman outfit.
|Super Charo: the most flamboyant superhero of all|
For days, I was left perplexed thinking what the heck "Super Charo" could possibly be. I began to seriously entertain the possibility whether or not a red-caped Charo would arrive to our doorstep belting show tunes.
(C'mon, sing it now! Ervry meng/Han ervry hoomang/Want the same thing)
On the morning of her flight, as my mother busied herself with last-minute verification that she had everything necessary for the trip, my grandmother exclaimed that the transport service had arrived. I eagerly rushed to the window to satisfy my curiosity over what "Super Charo" could be.
Lo and behold, I saw this pull up to the driveway:
|Link to image|
Huecazo (Large hole)
The Spanish word for "hole" is hueco. A huecazo denotes an impressively-sized hole, one large enough to swallow an entire village or, in the following case, a car tire.
Driving across the parking lot of a nearby supermarket, I spotted a large hole in the road. I felt it was important to make its presence known to my mother so she could avoid it.
"Mom, look out, there's a huecazo."
"WHAT?! REALLY?! WHERE IS IT?!"
I thought it was odd to see her so enthusiastic about a hole and decided to shrug it off.
"It's right over there."
"Where? I don't see it."
"The huecazo is right there! You are about to drive past it. Watch out!"
"But I don't see the huecazo anywhere!"
"Don't worry, you just drove by it."
"Hold on, let me drive around again because I want to get some burgers!"
Huh? What? Burgers? What was she talking about?
"What do you mean 'burgers?' Do you want to go to McDonald's?"
"No! Not McDonald's! Didn't you say there's a huecazo around here? I can't believe they've brought them to Florida! I really miss their mini-burgers."
That's when it clicked.
Prior to moving to Florida, we originally lived in New Jersey, home of the famous White Castle burger chain (and their sliders made infamous by the film Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle).
|Coincidentally, there will be no French Bean Goes to White Castle. I'm not high enough to make the journey from France to the nearest White Castle location (which is apparently in New York).|
Apparently, the way I said "large hole" was similar to the way she pronounced "white castle" with her heavy accent, something around the lines of "why-kasso."
(Note: "huecazo" is not pronounced like "why-kasso.")
"No, Mom, not WHITE CASTLE, huecazo, as in a large hole?"
"Oh. So...there's no White Castle?"
"I'm afraid not."
"Dang it. I was hoping to eat some White Castle burgers..."
Huecazo has become a bit of an inside joke between us and to this day whenever Mom mentions having spotted a large hole, I ask her where the burgers are.
In late 2009, I moved across the Atlantic Ocean to live in Dijon, France. Being the first time since I had left the proverbial nest, it was crucial for my mother and me to maintain contact. Moreover, in my absence, I worried over how my mother would cope with a general lack of knowledge over all things computer-related.
So imagine my surprise when she proposed a solution and announced:
"You should get Esquipi! You can use it on the computer!"
Esquipi? I thought. What the heck is that?
"Mom, what's Esquipi?"
"You don't know what Esquipi is?"
"How can you not know what Esquipi is? EVERYBODY knows about it! Even I know what Esquipi is!"
In a rare moment of her one-upping my technological savvy, rather than letting her berate me further due to my ignorance of this damned Esquipi, I asked her to elucidate on what this unknown technology entailed.
"Well, essentially, So-and-So said--You remember So-and-So, right?"
"No, I don't."
"Yes, you know who So-and-So is! How can you not remember them?"
"Mom, I don't--"
"Anyway, So-and-So told me that Esquipi is this thing that you find on the Internet (I don't know how that's done), that lets you call other people by telephone and have conversations with them. You can even see them on the camera."
Her explanation caused the wheels in my head to turn. Back in 2009, this thing that she had described was still a bit of a novelty, but I had certainly heard about it. Putting the pieces together, I had to ask one more question to be absolutely certain on what she was talking about.
"Mom," I started cautiously, "how do you spell 'Esquipi?'"
"Hold on, hold on, I have to find the paper where So-and-So wrote it down for me."
The phone clattered on a hard surface. I waited for her to retrieve the information. The silence from the phone ended with some rustling and her voice returned.
"Okay, I got."
"Great. So how is it spelled?"
My palm crashed against my forehead, leaving a red, five-fingered silhouette.
"Mom, that's pronounced SKYPE!"
"Ah, well, you understood me."
Speaking can be a real hoot sometimes.
Barb the French Bean