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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Yellow (11/12/09)

TITLE: Lost in Translation but Found in Laughter
By Anita van der Elst


There’s this little gal I am pleased to know in my circle of friends. Her name is *Flor and she’s from Peru. She’s earned the nickname ‘bite-size’ because she’s as tiny and sweet as those orange, yellow and white candy-corn tidbits we hand out at Halloween. A pair of chocolate-kiss brown eyes and a saucy smile tells you you’re in for a treat at any time of the year. Her South American Spanish accent makes everything she says sound exotic. She takes our teasing about the accent and her occasional misused words as opportunities to have just as much fun with them as we do.

We went to our church’s women’s retreat this past weekend where on Saturday I would be teaching the ladies how to make ‘squash books’. These are small books made from folded cardstock and photo-safe paper and pasted together in such a way that they can be ‘squashed’ into about half an inch thick and then unfolded sort of like an accordion to display the photos you’ve mounted in them. (Google it—there’s an instructional video out there on it.)

Friday evening when we’d first arrived, a few of us were playing a game called “I have never.” Each person takes a turn completing the phrase “I have never” with something they’ve never done, hoping the others in the group have. For every person who has done it, the person taking that turn gets a point.

It was Flor’s turn. She said, “I have never done a pumpkin.”

Is she referring to a jack-o-lantern? I looked around the group hoping to see understanding in someone’s face. All I saw were eyebrows cocked quizzically mirroring mine. We turned those expressions on dear Flor.

“What?” she protested innocently. “You are gonna be teachin’ us how to make pumpkin books, right?”

“Pumpkin book? Pumpkin book?” I asked, and then I got it. “O-o-o-o-o-o-oh, you mean squash books!”

It was the first time I’ve ever seen ROFLOL demonstrated so perfectly. Flor rolled off the couch onto the floor laughing so hard I thought she’d lose an asset of some importance. Of course, we all howled with her. When we’d all finally calmed down enough to breathe again, I explained to her that in this instance ‘squash’ did not refer to a vegetable but to the manner in which the book is closed. It gets ‘squashed’.

Flor gave me permission to share the pumpkin story at the craft session. And from here on out I will always call the book she made her ‘pumpkin’ book.

I heard things get lost in translation a few more times over the weekend.

Flor: I’ll know my husband is callin’ me when I hear the ‘bip’ on the phone.

Me: Bip? Bip? What’s a bip? O-o-o-o-o-o-h, you mean a ‘beep’!

Flor: I told my daughter she was not allowed to go into the yulery store.

Me: Yulery? Yulery? Christmas Yule logs? O-o-o-o-o-o-h, you mean jewelry store.

But the one that topped it off was an answer to this writer’s prayer.

Flor: My daughter, she’s almost five years old, she’s started to correct how I talk now. She’s not bein’ disrespectful. She hears her daddy tellin’ me how to pronounce things correctly and he always says, ‘you don’t have to change how you talk if you don’t want to.’ He likes it. Yust like you guys, he thinks it’s cute. Well, the other day I asked my daughter if she would like one of those little snack cups we’d bought at the grocery store. She’s colorin’ a picture at the time. She says, “Mama,” and taps her crayon a few times on the sun. “Mama, this is yellow. The snack cup is Jell-o.” She says to me, yust like the speech therapist our son has, “Je-je-je-je-jello!”


Flor (a few days later): “I’m really glad you came to retreat. Before I thought you were always so serious. I liked meetin’ the side of you that likes to yoke and laugh. And I gave to my daughter my pumpkin book. She likes it.”

Me: Does it have any jello in it?

*Real name used by permission, full approval and encouragement.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke11/19/09
Well told with interest. (I could totally relate as I too have a dear friend with an accent and her own way of pronouncing words or using them "differently". I hope if the tables were turned, I would be as gracious about my mispronunciations) :)

a fun read.