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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Unsung Hero (12/07/06)

TITLE: Some Things Get Lost in the Translation
By Donna Haug


“Boa tarde, Senhor. Senhora. Welcome to the Aguia Negra. My name is Luis. Can I get you some drinks to start off with today?” A beautiful breeze blew in off the Indian Ocean, its warm breath still a welcome respite from the blazing sun. The thatched roof rustled overhead and the palm trees waved playful fingers toward the scattered clouds. What a perfect day.

“Sim, por favor. I would like an Appletizer and my wife will take a Coke.” Terry could almost taste the cool tangy Apple drink as he smiled up at the waiter.

“I’m sorry, Senhor. We do not have Appletizer today. Can I bring you a Coke?” The waiter stood hopefully, pencil and paper poised for the order.

“No, thank you. Do you have any Orange Fanta, by any chance?”

“Sorry. The truck that brings our supplies from South Africa is stuck on the other side of the river. The ferry was not running this week. May I suggest a Coke, Senhor. That’s all we have.”

“Ok, I guess a Coke will have to do then.” Terry glanced over at Danielle and rolled his eyes. She almost burst out laughing.

“Please, take a look at our menu while I get your drinks.” He proudly handed a newly laminated menu to each of his guests and walked away.

Terry and Danielle admired the obvious attempt at modernization. “Look,” Danielle said. “It’s English on one side and Portuguese on the other! That’s great for when tourists come – not that we get very many of those around here!” They began reading on the English side. “Oh, my. Terry, what on earth is an ‘I preach on the bread’?”

“I have no idea. Let me check the Portuguese side.” Flipping the menu over, Terry scanned the list. Then he chuckled. “‘Prego no pao.’ That’s thin steak on a bun. It was translated literally. ‘Prego’ means ‘I preach’. I wonder …”

Flipping the menu back over, Terry glanced over the menu once more. Suddenly, he noticed something that made question marks dance on his head. The roar of laughter that burst out of Terry made Danielle jump. “What on earth?” she asked, glancing around the room in embarrassment.

“They used one of those translator programs on the computer to translate this menu. Look at this! This is the best! COCA-GLUE!” Sure enough, though “Coca” was not translatable, the word “Cola” means “glue” in Portuguese. Tears rolled down Terry’s face by this time. Danielle could not help joining in. It was not long before the waiter returned with their drinks, wondering what was going on.

“May I take your order?”

“Yes, can we have two orders of chicken and fries?” Terry figured that would be the safest meal to order, knowing the options would be few. “And, Luis, may I speak with your manager, please?”

Terry sipped on his Coke and chuckled. Danielle looked at him questioningly. “What are you up to?”

Terry winked at her and smiled. “This man is trying so hard to improve his business. I need to help him out. Here he is.” Terry stood to shake the hand of the worried looking man coming toward him.

“Senhor, you have such a nice place here. I can see that you are trying to attract tourists to your little restaurant. I would like to help you. It looks like you used a computer translator program for your menu.”

“Sim, Senhor, my son did it for me on his new computer,” he said just a bit defensively.

“There are just a couple of mistakes on the menu. Would you allow me to translate the menu for you? English is my first language. I would love to help.”

An hour later, Terry and Danielle left the restaurant hand in hand. On the table they had just vacated were two empty Coke bottles, their dirty dishes, and a piece of paper with two written columns – one side in Portuguese and the other in English. Danielle looked up at Terry fondly as they strolled toward the beach. “That was a very kind thing for you to do. I think I’ll have to stick with you. Me and Coke – we’re on you … like glue.”

* This story is based on a real menu. The names of the characters have been changed to protect their identity. The translator wishes to remain unsung.

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This article has been read 1335 times
Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood12/14/06
I was delighted by this story--the descriptions, dialogue, and humor! My favorite description: the "palm trees waved playful fingers..."

I loved hearing about the "I preach on the bread" and the "Coca glue"!

Interesting title too--it grabbed me right away. Good job!
Debbie Sickler12/14/06
Great story. :)

I loved that your husband took the time to help translate the menu correctly and your comment about sticking on him like glue was a perfect ending.
Jan Ackerson 12/15/06
I'm a huge fan of word play, and this really appealed to me. I like the way you tied in the theme at the end, too.

I heard somewhere that the phonetic translation of "Pepsi Cola" in Mandarin means "Bite the wax tadpole."
Pat Guy 12/15/06
Good flow! And a really good read. I enjoyed this immensely! (maybe because I love words too - in any language.)
Karri Compton12/16/06
What a cute story. I loved it!
Donna Powers 12/19/06
A very enjoyable and believable story. As enjoyable as a brief vacation. Thanks for sharing it.
Sandra Petersen 12/20/06
What a neat story! I liked the disclaimer on the bottom. I don't like Coke anyway, but I'll have to remember Coca Glue next time anyone in my family is having it. Pretty funny, especially when the waiter 'suggests' Coca Cola because it is the only drink they had in stock.
Betty Castleberry12/20/06
I laughed out loud at Coca Glue. So funny! Well done, and thank you for brightening my day.
Ann Grover12/20/06
Isn't language wonderful?

This was a great read...enjoyable...flowed well. Good writing!
Jen Davis12/20/06
This was a very enjoyable read and certainly not a typical “hero” story. The title was perfect and the ending was really cute!
Sara Harricharan 12/21/06
LOL! The title was very fitting, I loved how things were sorted out in the end, good descriptions in the beginning, I could feel like I was right there, watching the entire scene happen. Good job!

Thanks for commenting on "Mistaken War Hero"