Lost in Translation – Honey, Tampons and Sensible Condoms

Our first day in Spain we were exhausted, hot and excited to finally be here. After doing a little unpacking we walked out of our apartment and into our new life. Our first stop was a café in the middle of a lovely park. It was tranquil in the shade watching the children play, dogs run around and couples walk hand in hand.

Since I spoke the most Spanish it was up to me to order. Lily wanted noodles and butter and so I ordered, “pasta con miel”. “Pasta con miel?” said the waitress. “Si, pasta con miel” said I. “Pasta con miel????” she said again with a face. “Si, pasta con miel”.

“Bitch,” I though. “I understand that you think we are stupid Americans and that European kids eat all kinds of fancy stuff but my kid just got off a transatlantic flight and she just wants frikkin buttered noodles.”

Finally she agreed and went to put in the order.

And then she brought it out. Pasta con miel just as I had asked…noodles with HONEY.

Thankfully the KIND waitress had the foresight to put it in a separate bowl. I burst out laughing and suddenly remembered that miel is the word for honey BUT mantequilla is the words for butter. The waitress laughed too and quickly brought butter.

And that is basically how it has gone all year. I order something and something else appears. I make a request and get it but it is different than what I expect. Imagine me in the emergency room trying to figure out how to care for Jacob who after an x-ray was diagnosed with the serious sounding capsulities and then realizing he had just jammed his finger on basketball.

Usually my language skills can be blamed….but not all of the time. In Barcelona asking if you prefer “carne” or “pescado” (meat or fish) is sometimes asked to see if you prefer men or women.

Just to make things more complicated there are so many words that bleed from one language to the other, odd translations and just plain oddities of the language. Happily 98% of the time it is cause for laughter, head-shaking and amusement. And, the other other 2% becomes a good story a week or two later.

Below are a few of my favorites. I’ve included pictures just so you will believe me.

ULTRA SENSIBLE CONDOMS…they were selling these sensible condoms at the gas station. Are these for people who really, really don’t want to lose themselves in passion but rather approach their intimacy in an ultra sensible way?   Alas, sensible (pronounced “sen-see-blay”) mean sensitive in Spanish.

TAMPON COOKIE…yummy, homemade and the most puzzling of all. Turns out the this is a cookie made of a ceramic stamp so each cookie has a picture on it. The problem is that cookie is in English and tampon clearly isn’t…or is it???

TRUFFLED BIKINI…do I need to wax before I order this? Turns out that sandwiches with two fillings are called bikinis. This one included truffle oil. It was actually rather tasty.

COLON…just what I always wanted to wash my clothes with. Honestly I can’t figure out this one since it  seems to mean the same thing in Spanish and English. Colón is Colombus as in Christopher Colombus but that word an accent over the “o” and the product doesn’t. Yet another unsolved mystery.

DOUCHE…OK, I know I have watched too much South Park but every time I see the French word for shower “douche” I can’t help but giggle. I am especially amused when I see packaging for associated products, especially those that come in multiple fragrances.

BOMBERS…yes, in Spain bombers get their own special lock in the elevators. Turns out that in Catalan (the language spoken in Barcelona) a bomber is a fireman.

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