Well that's embarrassing

16 November 2005
3:55 PM

The weeks fly by and I find myself in my fifth two-week rotation here at the Maryknoll Institute. On each rotation you work with four different teachers, so I’m currently on #17-20. I’m making fewer mistakes, though they still rear their ugly head from time to time. Just a few days ago I was tripped up by the vicious false cognate introducir. At first glance, it looks like the perfect choice for “to introduce.” Unfortunately, that meaning is covered by presentar; introducir translates as “to penetrate,” which is not the kind of language you want to use while making introductions.

If there’s anything that will make you feel better about your own mistakes, it’s hearing about worse ones from other people. On that note, here are three Spanish faux pas related to me by my professors. Since a great number of religious study here, you’ll notice a common theme in these anecdotes.

  • At the beginning of a Mass, a priest asked the congregation to take a moment to realizar their sins. He meant realize in the sense of recognize. Unfortunately, realizar means realize in the sense of “to carry out” or “to make happen.” So if you don’t have any sins in mind, this is your permission to get some….
  • Another priest explained the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions. “We’re all adulteros here,” he said. Perhaps that’s true, but adulteros doesn’t mean adults; it means adulterous.
  • Finally, some people on the street taught one priest that No me jodas means “don’t bother me.” On the city streets it does, in fact, have that meaning. He proceeded to use that phrase copiously for an entire Mass. Only afterward did a parishioner confront this priest. What he said doesn’t really mean “don’t bother me,” but rather the most forceful equivalent you can imagine for “don’t screw with me.” The exact translation is left as an exercise for the reader.

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