Like most children, I was curious about where babies came from, especially when I found out I would be getting a new baby brother. My parents gave me the sanitized Disney version of the birds and the bees.
In no graphic detail, I learned that when a mommy and a daddy loved each other, a baby seed jumped from a daddy to a mommy. Somehow, mommy grew a baby in her stomach. In my little mind, I accepted this as a fact and consequentially, for many years afterwards, I was horrified of accidentally swallowing watermelon seeds.
Armed with the new knowledge of procreation, I was eager to demonstrate my mastery of the subject. During one trip to the grocery store, waiting in a long line to check out, I noticed a large lady ahead of us. In a voice with no volume control, I unabashedly pointed to the lady ahead of us with the large belly and exclaimed, “MOMMY, THAT LADY IS PREGNANT!” Needless to say, my mom was mortified.
A few months later. My parents told me that they would be bringing my new baby brother, named Kent, home from the hospital.
When they arrived home, they introduced me to the little bundle of joy they were holding, “Chad”. My eyes grew wide as I stared at this little stranger in front of me. I could not believe that my parents brought the wrong baby home! To this day, I’m still searching for my brother Kent. The kid they swapped for my brother and brought home from the hospital was, and still is awesome, but I still long to meet Kent.
This trip down memory lane was a long introduction to illustrate the potential gaffs associated with knowledge acquisition.
We’ve just finished two weeks of one-on-one Spanish classes in Antigua, Guatemala. Besides horrible pronunciation of the Spanish language, we managed to create a few splanglish words and along the way we’ve said some of the darndest things.
Sarah was explaining that she was embarassed in a certain situation and said “Estuvé embarazada” which translates as “I was pregnant.” She meant “Estuvé avergonzada.”
When asked what I did with my family over the weekend, I tried to explain that we had a picnic, “Hicimos mierda” which roughly translates as “We made shit”. I meant “Hicimos merendar.”
When trying to explain that Sarah was a genetic counselor in a breast center, I couldn’t remember the proper word to describe the body part so I made the universal sign for holding a pair of melons and used the slang term “papas” which is also the word for potatoes. My Spanish vocabulary may be limited but somehow slang terms seem to stick in my mind.
Sarah has held a piece of fruit or a vegetable in a market, wondering if it is fresh, and asked the vendor “¿Es fresa?” only to be told “No” along with the look of “stupid foreigner” and told the name of the item she is holding, such as lettuce, papaya, etc. She was asking “Is it a strawberry?” (fresa) when she meant “Is it fresh?” (fresco).
At least once, we’ve gone to pick up our laundry from a lavandería and announced “Encogemos nuestro ropa” which translates as “We shrink our clothes” when we meant “Recogimos nuestro ropa” or “We pick up our clothes.”
Like fables and fairy tales, there are several lessons that can be learned from this story:
- Don’t embarrass your parents. They can be vindictive and trade your younger sibling for another baby just to spite you.
- Being a novice when using a new language can have benefits. It’s an inadvertent way to break the ice.
- Ladies, perform self-breast exams. Preferably on the beach using baby oil. Save the tatas.