Penne is not on the menu, ma’am.

On Saturday, I’m biting the nervous bullet and going to a Spanish conversational class at our local library. The last time I had an actual conversation in Spanish was while working as an interpreter for an insurance company 4 years ago. And even then, it wasn’t a situation in which I could fudge a little here or there. Those pleasant “talks” were recorded and used in court when needed. So, in light of the momentous occasion this weekend, I’ve decided to relive some of my more memorable linguistic moments.

As a claims interpreter, we had to speak on behalf of many different spanish dialects. Needless to say, I hadn’t really brushed up on Peruvian street slang while in college. The going got tough. Fast. ‘Honk’ was apparently a hard word for me to comprehend, for some reason. Here are a couple examples:
Claims Adjuster: “Did you make any evasive action to avoid hitting the car?”
Little ole me: “What did you do to avoid hitting the car?”
Customer: “I honked.”
[I quickly look up the word in the online dictionary. Horrible source.]
Little ole me: “I whistled.”
Claims Adjuster: “You whistled?”
Little ole me: “You honked?”
(Mind you, I’m still using the same word the customer did)
Customer: “Yes, I honked.”
Little ole me: “Yes, I whistled.”
Claims Adjuster: “I need a new interpreter.”

Claims Adjuster: “Did you honk your horn to avoid the accident?”
[Don’t use online dictionaries.]
Little ole me: “Did you play the horn (trumpet)?”
Customer: “No, I wasn’t playing the trumpet. I was driving my car.”
[Customer used a slang term for car which literally translates to…]
Little ole me: “No , I wasn’t honking my horn. I was driving my furniture.”
Claims Adjuster: “You were driving your furniture?”
Little ole me: “You were driving your car?”
(Again, I used the same slang word as the customer)
Customer: “Yes, I was driving my car.”
Little ole me: “Yes, I was driving my furniture.”
Claims Adjuster: “I need a new interpreter.”

And lastly, the ole ‘Make a Fool Out of Yourself in Front of Your Classmates’ routine. By the end of college, I had that one down. For homework, we had to describe our favorite meal to the class:

“I like penne pasta mixed with sauce and vegetables.” (Class snickers.) “Sometimes I add chicken to the penne pasta.” (Even louder laughter from the class). “Penne pasta is the best!” At this point, the teacher finally interrupted me to ask if I knew what I was saying. Apparently I was gushing “I like [male genitalia] pasta mixed with….” “[Male genitalia] is the best!”

This Saturday is shaping up to be interesting at least.

6 comments on “Penne is not on the menu, ma’am.

  1. Bruce L. Snell says:

    I don’t like Penne Pasta.-Bruce

  2. Anonymous says:

    OMG, I miss your insurance translation stories. Too funny!! Can we go running tomorrow morning (sorry, i know this blog is about you but i bet you check this more than your voicemails)?

  3. mengi34 says:

    I’m completely doubled over laughing right now! I LOVE those translation stories! Oh, I miss you!

  4. Kate says:

    I’d like another serving of penne, please! I was laughing so hard I was crying!! Tell ’em bout when you kept commeting on Alvaro’s “cula”…no, wait…”cola”. Remember??? Oh, my goodness…I’m still laughing!!

  5. Carolyn says:

    I *did* remember that…vaguely. But couldn’t put the entire conversation together. After some point, they all tend to run together. Sigh.

  6. Cop's Wife says:

    Ohhh hooooo oheeeee yooooowwwww!

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