Joke telling in a foreign language
by Elizabeth Willoughby
There's a Canadian, a Brazilian and a German in a kitchen. The Brazilian cracks wise and the Canadian says,... well, let's just say it's not pretty...
HB has invited guests for dinner – Ivaldo and his wife Maria. They are friends of an acquaintance and helped us find this nice house to rent in a tranquil, green neighbourhood outside of noisy, cement-laden Sao Paulo city. We are grateful to not have garbage trucks rumble by at 2 a.m. anymore.
When we first viewed the house, Ivaldo walked us through it room by room. When we got to the last room, he looked at me, smiled, and with a grand sweep of his arm presented the kitchen. I did not bubble over with excitement. This caused him to give HB a bewildered, worried look. Now he's coming for dinner.
Since we have just met Ivaldo, we're unsure about what dishes he and his wife might like, so we make a variety of foods to be safe. A roast chicken and fresh salad along with meat and vegetable fondue with a bunch of sauces should do it, with pudim de leite, a typical Brazilian pudding, for dessert. The Saturday that they are coming for dinner is the same Saturday we discover that our oven's temperature control doesn't exactly work according to the dial. Now we know that it has three temperatures: "off", "very low" and "very high", and I have a burnt chicken.
No matter. We air the smell of charcoal out of the house, and we still have the fondue and sauces that we spend the afternoon creating. At six o'clock, the doorbell rings and Ivaldo and Maria come in. Thinking of my reaction to the kitchen when he first showed us the place, with a teasing grin Ivaldo says, "So, what's for dinner?" I decide to be funny too, and answer, "Galinha preta" (black chicken). The bewildered, worried look returns to Ivaldo's face and Maria's face turns white. Clearly something has been lost in translation. HB quickly changes the subject and we avoid any further reference to black chickens.
The next week at my Portuguese lesson I tell the story to my teacher and ask her what I said wrong. She explains that although galinha technically means chicken, the common word for chicken is frango, and galinha is used to refer to a prostitute. In other words, I had announced that we were having a black prostitute, for dinner. I'm not sure if she was to be the main course or a guest, but I let it go.
It was so simple back home in Canada, where we have Newfie jokes — a Newphie being one from Newfoundland, Canada's easternmost province — which inevitably start with "There's a Newfie, an American, and a (insert third nationality here) in a bar." Naturally, it's Newfies who tell the funniest, self-deprecating jokes, but I'm guessing they've never mixed up a chicken with a prostitute.
There's nothing like a great adventure travel story — one that's fun, thrilling and full of the unknown. If that's what you want, check out my WorldGuide Tales from the Road pages. This blog is about the stories a travel writer can't sell. The misadventures. The plans gone awry, luck run amuck. Sometimes with my partner, HB, sometimes with friends, and sometimes I manage to mess things up without any help at all. These are the stories that make your friends laugh and call you a knucklehead. These are the stories you really remember.
Article ©Elizabeth Willoughby 2016
This article was originally published at WorldGuide.eu
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