Saturday, June 30, 2012

context is everything

context can get you places. even if your brain takes the long route. take lago and lado for example. the first means lake, the latter, side. this morning i asked a staff member who was sharing an elevator with me:

why are there no 2nd or 3rd floors for this elevator?
because they're on the other lake.

about halfway through breakfast i realized she'd said side. about that time, i caught a preview for the new batman movie on the cafeteria television. it flashed the title: 

batman: horse of the night.
that seemed odd. so i asked vicki:

cc: caballero means horse, right?
v: gentlemen. caballero means gentlemen, more or less. like on the bathroom doors.
cc: right.
v: caballo is horse.
cc: oh...thanks.
v: what made you think of that?
cc: oh, nothing really. just...batman: the dark knight...makes. more. sense.

i should have learned this lesson weeks ago in araçatuba. i couldn't figure out why dad kept starting sentences with:

a building because...
so i asked márcio:

cc: um edificio is a building, right?
m: right.
cc: then why does dad start every sentence with edificio?
m: (puzzled look. pause. laughter erupts.) edificio! edificio!
(the group conversation stops. inquiries begin. another round of laughter.)
cc: what? edificio? what's so funny? what did i say?
m: é difícil and edificio.
cc: huh?
m: they're two different things. (speaking slowly). edificio is a buliding. but he's saying é difícil. "It's difficult."
cc: (laughing despite myself). well...é difícil to hear the difference.


LizzyLou said...

It kind of reminds me of a misunderstanding I had nearly my whole year in Italy: I wondered why parents would always say to their kids, "Mira, Commando," which I believed meant something like, "Look, Commando..." I thought maybe Commando was a common term of endearment or something! I didn't realize for an embarrassingly long time that they were saying, "Mi racommando," which is like a stern "I ask you..." or "don't forget." Haha. Hmm. Yeah. :)

johnny said...

Haha. That's awesome, Liz. Brains and languages are pretty funny combo! this trip is definitely giving me lots of opportunities not to take myself too seriously...