Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: FERHOODLE (confuse or mix-up) (03/03/16)
- TITLE: Language Limbo
By Pat Small
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“Sure. Let’s see what they have. We can celebrate our first trip to downtown Sao Paulo together.”
We entered the tiny street side shop, and the lady behind the counter asked what we would like. At least, I assume that is what she said. My Portuguese ability had not progressed too far beyond Hello. My name is Leon. I am an American. I am a missionary. Desperately, I studied the pictures on the wall. Ah, right beside the picture of a cone with a scoop of ice cream on top was the word sabor. My mind ran through suffixes, prefixes, sounds and syllables, hoping to come up with something that might mean ice cream. The lady behind the counter, watched me curiously.
Finally, I had an inspiration. I added a syllable, and it sounded rather like a word to me, so I tried it out. Tina indicated chocolate. Soon she was smiling as she secured a chocolate ice cream cone in her chubby fingers. I asked how much, and heard a jumble of sounds. Having no real clue, I handed over some cruzeiros, and received change.
When we arrived home, Tina told her mother, “Daddy bought me a chocolate ice cream cone.”
“That’s nice. I guess that means you were a good girl.”
“I’m always good, Mommy,” she giggled and ran off to play with her dolls.
“Did everything go alright, honey?” my wife inquired.
“Yeah, but the lady at the ice cream store looked at me funny. I couldn’t figure out if she thought I was making fun of her, trying to be a smart aleck, or what.”
“Oh, no. Tell me exactly what you said.”
I told her, and she laughed so hard she nearly wet her pants. “What? What’s so funny?” I demanded.
“You asked for chocolate soap,” she managed between paroxysms of hysterical laughter.
I wish I could say that was my only restaurant blunder. Unfortunately, it would get worse. One afternoon my wife Pat and I were running some errands when she had a craving for french fries. We moseyed up to a lunch counter, and I ordered for both of us. “Baratas fritas and two coca colas, por favor.” As the counterman went off to the kitchen, my wife burst my bubble. “I don’t know what he’s going to bring us, but I sure hope it is not what you just ordered,” she gloated.
“And that would be…?”
“French Fried Cockroaches.” What a difference one little letter in a word can make.
Some time passed and no one had brought us any food. “Do you think he’s corralling the roaches?” Pat smirked. Sometimes I could smack her! Just kidding.
My only consolation in language limbo land was that I was not alone. Stories abounded of major gaffes we missionaries have made over the years. There was the guy who went to the outdoor vegetable market for his wife, and tried to purchase a quilo of ladies. He said senhoras when he should have said cenouras. Believe me, they sound VERY similar.
Another man we met so embarrassed his children they prayed that the floor would open up and swallow them. He was enthusiastically urging the congregation “get out in the fields and ‘obrar’.” Obrar does mean work. However, its more common usage is to do number two.
Not to be outdone, I gave a totally new twist to a familiar verse. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life” became Jesus said, “I am the truck…”
Sometimes, it even traveled in reverse to the United States. One of the missionary kids whose nickname was Bunda (butt) because of a prominent posterior, was now in college with other Brazilian MK’s. He became known throughout the school by the affectionate moniker. Envision what happened when the Christian college president introduced the chapel speaker as Bunda’s Dad. The hall erupted in raucous laughter while the very dignified president stood there wondering what had just happened.
I also had the unfortunate distinction of being an inventor, glibly uttering heretofore unknown words. I was comedic relief.
Many other slip-ups have become legendary. Even though we prayed frequently for the gift of tongues, God instead chose to enlighten the hearts and minds of thousands of lost souls so the Gospel was understood and accepted in spite of us.
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