Language oops du jour

The other day my wife was craving cookies, and since I’m the baker in the house, I dutifully produced a plateful of peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies. (Which, if I may say so myself, were delicious.) As I was in the middle of baking, the delivery boy arrived with our pizza, so in addition to his tip I offered him a cookie from the plate.

Unfortunately, my brain got a wire crossed (it happens frequently in Portuguese) and I offered him a borracha instead of a bolacha. The moment I said it, I knew it wasn’t right, but couldn’t remember why. The delivery boy looked rather puzzled, but politely accepted a cookie and seemed happy with it.

It wasn’t until I shut the door that my brain snapped into focus, and I had a good laugh. No wonder the poor man was confused! I asked him if he’d like to eat an eraser.

(Note for British readers: for “cookie” think biscuit, and for “eraser” think rubber.)

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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5 Responses to Language oops du jour

  1. JR says:

    My favorite language mistake: when I repeat and repeat a word that I know is correct, and the other person still has no idea what I’m trying to say. This is usually followed by the realization, some two days later, that yes, I was using the right word for “cookie,” but was unfortunately using it in the wrong language–Russian when the rest of the sentence is in Hindi, for instance. Always makes me feel like a complete genius.

  2. Inge says:

    Well, my favourite ones are about dialects (meant as varieties of a language). My father and mother have grown up.. ohh all of 2 km apart and yet.. My mom was telling my father to fetch the ‘vijs’ from the cellar. My father went down, searched all the rooms in the cellar, returned and told my mother there was no such thing. My mother replied by: “there is, i put it there this morning’. So my father went back, really searched in depth.. nothing. So again he comes back.. nothing. My mother, slightly annoyed by the delay, went down and brought back a ‘vijs’. So, what is this then, she asked. My father answered: a bandage. Where are the ‘vijzen’ then. When it finally dawned on my mother.. Oh you thought i asked about screws, oops.
    (een vijs can only be a screw in my father his dialect, while it can be both a screw or a bandage in my mother her dialect)

    We have so many dialects in Flanders and i happen to work in a company that has a lot of them from all over. In the end if we were to truly talk our dialects, the other can not understand it, though it is supposed to be dutch. So, due to television, there is a standard-dutch we all use, kind of. But everyone slips in dialect-words at times and hence the delightful mistakes. It’s regularly debated in the company because of the discovery of new words and sometimes we all start using them because it’s so colourful at times.

  3. oregon expat says:

    JR: It’s that two-day delay that really gets me. Happens all the time.

    Inge: I am astonished that there would be such differences in dialects from villages only 2 km apart!

  4. JR says:

    I envy you your Portuguese skills, though. I do well enough (mostly) with the documents I need to read for work, but contemporary Portuguese… Every once in awhile I decide I need to do something about that, but usually lose my motivation after about 15 minutes of listening comprehension exercises.

    • oregon expat says:

      It certainly does sound different than it reads! I do wish I were much more skilled, though. I’ve actually been backsliding a bit, and with the austerity measures chopping my wife’s salary by 23% (no, that is not an exaggeration), paying for a private tutor just isn’t in the budget.

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