In my short time in Mexico I’ve already managed to get myself into some serious trouble with the language resulting in several
major Spanish fails. While there are many great things about the Spanish, I find it utterly unforgiving when it comes to noun endings. I’ll very often accidently replace an “o” with an “a” or an “i” with an “o”. Unfortunately, in my case, this usually results in changing the meaning of the word from something pleasant or inane to something deeply vulgar or offensive.
Unfortunately this is not a new problem for me, and first came to my attention while I was studying in Barcelona. I was coming to the end of my semester and was planning a big dinner party for my Catalonian friends to thank them for all of the wonderful hospitality they had shown me. I went to the quaint little butcher shop on my street to pick up some chicken and smiled at the plump lady behind the counter. “Quiero polla por favor,” I said non chalantly, hoping to impress her with my confidence and ease with the Spanish language. She looked confused. “Quiero polla,” I repeated looking expectantly at the case where the chicken breasts were. She looke more and more uncomfortable. “Quiero quatro pechuga de polla” I said again, at which point she began to laugh, covering her mouth with her hand. “Pollo, Pollo” she corrected me. She gave me the chicken and I walked hope pondering the incident.
That evening, I asked my Catalan friends the difference between “Pollo” and “Polla”. To which friend laughed and replied, “‘Pollo’ is chicken, ‘Polla’ is what is between a man’s legs”. So apparently what I had actually said to the nice lady butcher was “I want penis please”, “I want penis”, “I want four breasts of penis”.
This happened again recently while trying to have some cushions reupholstered in Ensenada, Mexico. I’ve had a lifelong hatred of our mustard-colored boat cushions and so as soon as we got to Mexico I was intent on having them reupholstered. We soon found a nice little Tapiceria run by a man named Fidel. Wanting to know if I could see some examples of his past work, I said “Puedo mirar los cohones?” He graciously showed me some cushions he’d worked on. “Linda, linda cohones!” I exclaimed, wanting to complement him on the nice work he’d done. I then proceeded to launch in to an extended conversation about how I wanted our cushions to be smooth, simple, and ready by next week. Robin, kindly corrected me, AFTER, this entire conversation had taken place that the correct word for cushions in spanish was “cohines” and not “cohones” which infact means “testicles”. So poor Fidel had to endure questions and comments like, “Can I see the testes”, “Such beautiful beautiful testes!”, “We want less wrinkly testes please.”
It seems that I’ve inadvertantly learned the words to describe the male sexual anatomy by simply swapping out vowels at the end of words. So let this be a cautionary tale to you all, learn from my Spanish fail, there are no partial marks when it comes to Spanish vocab.