I thought I’d heard it all. Recently, I was teaching English to international students at a local college. The class had studied idioms for weeks-- idioms of color, food, and number. One evening, students were asked to create original dialogues using various idioms. Juan, a strappingly handsome Mexican, delivered his dialogue with Naomi, a petite woman from Japan. “Have you met my girlfriend, Maria? Why, she’s just a little penis!” I assumed he meant to call her a “little peanut.” I had to cover my mouth to control my giggles. Nobody else in the class even cracked a smile. Afterwards, I decided to teach them the correct pronunciation of consonants—all consonants.
I really thought I’d heard it all. A colleague who once lived in Korea found Chingo, a darling canine. I don’t know how she kept him as a pet since Koreans enjoy them as a culinary delight. However, Chingo was her delight. She said that “Chingo means ‘friend’ in Korean.” Later, she and Chingo made their home in San Antonio. One day, Chingo disappeared; escaped, dog-napped, gone! His owner traveled everywhere calling, “Chingo! Here, Chingo!” Posters offered a reward for Chingo. The Hispanic community must have exploded with laughter. My colleague never knew that Chingo, in Spanish, translates as the f-bomb, the same word scrawled on bathroom walls. Chingo expresses the action verb in first-person singular. She found her dog, but his name is too obscene to repeat.
The Spanish language is a treasure, and the many dialects are just as fascinating as the standard language. I have a friend who, while visiting the Dominican Republic, had her wallet and hotel key stolen. She tried explaining this to the concierge. She stated that, “The key was in my wallet, and the wallet was stolen from my purse.” The concierge seemed confused. A nearby patron explained to my friend, “What you are saying is, ‘The key was in the wallet, and the wallet was stolen from my scrotum.” The concierge’s confusion was soon replaced with mirth.
Having said all that, I have my own story to tell. I was proud of my progress with Spanish until my Spanish teacher, Alejandra, corrected a grave error. Often, I had said, “I’m embarrassed.” Estoy embarazada. Finally, she said, “You should say, “Estoy verguenza” if you mean that you’re embarrassed. What you’re saying is, “I am getting pregnant—right now.” No wonder the Spanish-speaking boys in my ESL class would snicker and exchange glances when I stated that I was embarrassed. They rolled with laughter when I asked them to discuss their embarrassing experiences, Las Experiencias Embarazadas.
Now I know I’ve heard it all.