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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lost in Translation

In my blog, emails, correspondence etc. I try to maintain a friendly polite tone… I have three children to whom I must model good behaviour so I generally keep my language clean and try to focus my intentions on the forces of good, rather than evil.

Sometimes the best of intentions are not always enough.

When I first met a handsome Italian, now my husband, I understood not a word of his language and I only had a vague idea of his culture. It involved a lot of pasta and hand waving (forgive me, I was very very young).

In addition to my introductory Italian language course, my gorgeous beau taught me a little Italian. One of the phrases he would always say to me before a test was good luck. What a useful phrase, I thought.

Fast forward a year and we’re off to Italy as a newly engaged couple, to meet his extended family. My ability to speak Italian at that point included please, thank you, counting to ten, and a few handy phrases, one of which included “good luck”.

In my shiny enthusiastic hope to endear myself to his family, I made sure to mind my manners, say please and thank you, smile lots and occasionally throw in a phrase when the situation merited.

Occasionally my efforts brought smiles, a bit of laughter and some funny looks. No look was as odd as the one Nonna gave me when sent her off with a hearty “good luck” as she ventured off to find something. This really puzzled me until I turned to my fiancé and asked “Why did your grandmother look at me so strangely when I wished her good luck?”

“What did you say?”

“Good luck, like you told me, in culo alla balena.”

My fiancé gagged on his drink, “Mary that’s a sailor’s term for good luck. It means in the ass of a whale!”

I certainly was making an impression on his family but not the one I had intended.

To all my friends and family, I love you and wish for you a wonderful 2009...

... and a big fat hearty good luck!


Jude said...

Haha nice story. I don't get how in the ass of a whale equates to good luck , though. :)

Aparna said...

Came visiting for the Db challenge and stopped to read this post and the previous one. :)
Language translations can be interesting. Even though my husband and I speak the same language (and we have many in India) our daughter sometimes translates her thoughts directly from English and the result can be grammatically hilarious. :D

enza said...

mary, please can you ask to your husband to translate for you...tra le palle del porcospino? we use, expecially in the university world before an exam. :)))

in culo alla balena, in bocca al lupo, tra le palle del porcospino, buona fortuna e il meglio per il 2009