Post Tagged with "lost in translation"

Are you saying I’m fat?

Kyle (USA) and S. (Chile)

“Ahhh, Kyle, gordita, como estas?”

(Translation: Ahhh, Kyle, fatty, how are you?)

This is how my father in law would greet me every time we went over to his house. Although, the word gordita was alternately replaced with “rellenita,” another term, also referring to plumpness.

At first, I thought I needed to be on model behavior for my husband’s parents, so I would just grit my teeth, clench my fists, and smile and nod, when all I really wanted to do was punch his dad in the face, as he insulted me about my weight over and over and over again.

Finally one day I’d had it. When my father in law inevitably brought up my weight at the dinner table in front of everybody, telling me I looked “even fatter than normal,” I took the bait and snapped back, “Well, you look older and more wrinkly than normal.”

Silence.

Crickets chirping.

Me turning beet red as I realized I’d just said something truly offensive.

Eventually someone coughed politely and changed the subject. But, after dinner my husband took me aside.

“Why in the world would you insult my dad like that?!?” he asked.

I told him, “I’m sick of the weight comments, tell him to stop insulting me.”

And then the error of my ways was explained to me. My husband told me that in Chile, “Gordita” is a term of endearment and is only used lovingly. He also explained that it’s not at all impolite to bring up other people’s weight loss/weight gain and that if people do, that just means they care about you enough to notice.

And then I explained to my husband that telling someone they look fat/fatter is one of the rudest things you can possibly do in my culture and that certain gringas (ahem, not me, of course) are even prone to random acts of violence when old men, who are also fat, feel it necessary to make weight comments.

Needless to say, hubby had a little chat with my father in law and my fatness, or lack thereof, was never brought up again.

Kyle’s blog Just Married Chilean Style has more stories of married life in Chile.

Enjoyed this? Read more stories of cross-cultural encounters from My Partner is a Foreigner.

July 13, 2008 3 comments

Petite Anglaise (UK) and Mr Frog (France)

The frog and I speak a language understood only by ourselves, where sentences may start in French, end in English and include some words which hover somewhere in between. I’ve adopted some of the frog’s more endearing mistakes because they amused me: faulty plurals (feets, sheeps), creative past tenses (“I’m feeling hanged over”). He also does a very convincing faux Yorkshire accent when he says “fancy a cuppa tea luv?” and slips into it automatically (as do I) when he spends time with my family.

Mother called last night and asked the frog if he had any idea what she could get him for his upcoming birthday. I would give anything to have been a fly on the wall to see her reaction when he said that he could do with a pair of handcuffs*.

Strait-laced mother must have been struggling to process this unexpected/unwelcome revelation about our sex life and his request was met with a protracted embarrassed silence. I was too busy choking with mirth on a sour cream and onion Pringle to put either of them out of their misery.

He meant cuff links*.

Reproduced with permission from Catherine Sanderson´s blog Petite Anglaise. Catherine is about to publish a book about her adventures living in Paris.

*note for non-native english speakers:
handcuffs – the police use them to fasten your hands together
cuff links – decorative device used to fasten shirt sleeves

February 20, 2008 Comments disabled

Lydia (UK) and Carlo (Italy)

Lydia writes: I had known my (now) husband Carlo for a few months when we were invited by friends to a celebration dinner. It would be a smart event, and I asked Carlo what he was planning to wear. “I have a maroon velvet suit which will be perfect” he answered. Well, in England where I grew up “maroon velvet” suits have not been in fashion since sometime during the 1970s, but since we had not known each other for very long, and after all the Italians are supposed to know something about style, I politely said nothing.  

However there was no need to have worried. On the evening itself Carlo turned up wearing a very nice dark brown corduroy suit. He had translated the Italian for brown corduroy (velluto marrone) into the nearest equivalent English words, thus causing my confusion. Now I am learning Italian, and making up many more funny expressions of my own!

January 6, 2008 Comments disabled