Monday, December 14, 2009

Idiomasyncracies: Jamón ó Jabón

In my opinion Spanish is a fascinating language and living in this environment is a constant learning experience.  As I strive toward fluency I am often humbled or even humiliated by my inability to communicate certain concepts.  On occasion I misuse words and confuse vocabulary to the point of being scoffed or laughed at.  My plan is to post a series of tidbits I've learned, and continue to learn, about these "idiomasyncracies".  Idioma means language in Spanish + idiosyncracies are life's little oddities.  Thus, the little oddities in Spanish. 

**One additional new word introduced here is autoventures:  automobile + adventures (lengthy insane car trips throughout Mexico and Central America).

Still one of my favorite stories, this first example is a scenario that took place over 30 years ago on one of my earliest Mexican autoventures.  My brother, a girlfriend and I drove from Los Angeles down the entire Baja Peninsula, ferried from La Paz to Mazatlán, and were on our way to the town of Tequila, Jalisco, one day, when we stopped for breakfast.

My brother and Karen had very limited Spanish speaking abilities.  That means I did most of the talking the first week and a half of the trip.  In 1976 my Spanish sucked, but I didn't know that then.  It got us by, and more importantly we all usually got whatever we needed, or close to it anyhow.

On this occasion my brother decided he wanted to start speaking for himself.  He said he'd order his own breakfast.  Whe the waiter asked him what he wanted, he proudly said, "Quiero huevos con jabón."

While my brother was concentrating on the words to communicate the style he'd like his eggs prepared, the waiter and I burst into laughter.  My brother's face turned crimson.  "What did I say wrong?"

"You just ordered eggs with soap."

Bro swallowed his pride and quietly corrected himself, "Huevos revueltos con jamón, por favor."  That is scrambled eggs with ham.  He probably wanted his eggs over easy, but that would have added more confusion. 

In Spanish there is often a doble sentido (double meaning) involved adding to the chiste (joke).  In this case huevos is one of several slang terms for testicles, and "I want (my) balls with soap"  can open up one's imagination. 

The way I always remembered this idiomasyncracy was:  JaMón....haM.     JaBón....Bubbles....Soap.  You have to trick your mind into remembering some of these things.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feliz Navidad

The Christmas Canoe.

We are spending the holidays at home this year.  We have house guests and thought this year we would show some Christmas spirit by decorating a little. That means I didn't unpack all the goodies this year and go crazy.  It is a subtle approach this season.   Inside the house we created this little showcase. 

We got carried away lighting up the plants outside in the zen garden and only had this one white strand left.  It is festive.

I have a collection of ornaments I either made or was given over the past several decades.  The ones pictured above are from seed pods, shells and other treasures I've collected.  I went through a long stretch where I made different ornaments every year and gave them as gifts to my friends. 

Father Christmas has done a lot of traveling and is a bit worn, but he is still looking great and found a place in the dining room.

The angel made of philadendron sheathes is still guarding the kitchen year round, and now she has some of her old friends hanging out with her. 

The little bells below are made from regular sized styrofoam cups.  I think we made these in the early 1990's when Jim was working on the research vessel.  My friends and I painted the cups and the crew took them down in a dive bag attached to a submarine.  They went to visit Loihi, the newest Hawaiian island.  It is 3000 feet below the surface.  The air is sucked out of the styrofoam with the water pressure and they come up shrunken cups.  That was a fun year painting those cups.  Putting up the ornaments brings back a lot of memories.  For me especially, since each and every ornament I own means something to me.  I have a few Christmas balls, but even those are unique and were special gifts.  So, simple it may be, still it seems to add a bit of holiday cheer to the household.