Friday, April 3, 2009

Lost in Translation?

-"Chin** tu Madre, pinc** cabro**", say it! Go on, SAY IT!
-Don't you want to speak Spanish? Just say it to that guy over there.
-What does it mean?
-Nothing, it's just like, "hey, how's it going man?" Just go say it to him.

In the little town where I grew up in Oregon, this was a common "right of passage" for the 9 year-old white kids in my neighborhood. The older, cool Mexican kids in Junior High were always eager "teach" Spanish to the little elementary school kids. Even the Russian speaking punks would get in on the game:

-Say "pizd**", it means hello in Russian. Go on, SAY IT!

Inevitabley, some poor sucker would go up to a Mexican or Russian oldster and try out his new vocabulary, only to get yelled at or worse. Behind the nearest tree, his new "friends" could barely contain themselves. Yup, another stupid little white kid. Sucker! I'm sure these same jerks were once young immigrants on the receiving end of that same trick. Just getting back at someone less experienced felt good.

It's a little sad, however, when these child's games continue into adulthood. What happened, didn't you get it out of your system in middle school?

-Watch, we'll get the dummies to say "conyo" when they bring their gramma in to get a sandwich.
-Hi, I read in Westword that you have this great Cuban sandwich.
-Oh, which one? (sly grin, wink, wink)
-I think you call it the "eye kon-ee-oh"?
-Oh, you mean the Conyo? Say it, CON-YO!
-Thanks! Yes, I want UN CONYO!

Cue the laughter, the kitchen staff is rolling on the floor. "Otro pi*** gringo pidio un Conyo!" (Another f'ing gringo wants a CU*T!)

Despite Johnathan Shikes assurances in his Westword review that "Aye Conyo means something like Goddamnit in Spanish"; a simple Google search will get you this definition:

I. Literally, translates to what has sometimes been termed the most obscene word in the English language "c*nt"...
II. Usually used as a passionate, emphatic expletive (see f*ck!, sh*t!, d*mn!, etc..). Significantly more vulgar than "mierda" (sh*t).
e.g. Conyo, hombre, ella sabe! transl: F*CK man, she knows!
Urban Dictionary

Now, I know that the Spanish language is not monolithic. I understand that how a word is used in Spain, might not be the same as how it is used in Mexico or Cuba. But, no matter how you present it, "cu*nt" is not a word most of us would be using casually when ordering a meal with the family. I also realize that people have the freedom to say whatever they want, even if others might be offended. But what I don't get is the need to make unwitting customers say words that they might not say if they understood them.

Going to an establishment, whether it be a restaurant or another service provider, is an act of trust. We trust that our host will treat us with respect, that they will provide us with what we are requesting, and that they will not fool us. If I am lactose intolerant and I order something at your restaurant because I'm told it is non-dairy, will you sneak in some cheese just to watch me get sick? Yeah, you might think it's funny watching me run to the bathroom like my hair was on fire, but it's not nice.

I don't think I'm being a prude here. I'm just asking for respect.


Anonymous said...

Good points

Denveater said...

Totally not prudish. The English word testaurant comes from a French word meaning "to restore." The whole original point was that a weary person came to gain a bit of health, energy, sanity that had been sapped from them by The Man or L'Homme or whatever all day long. The original point was hospitality in the non-corporate-appropriated sense of the word.

I'll never understand the whole Wiener Circle allure.

Denveater said...

Uh, "restaurant." "Testaurants" are something different altogether, probably involving bulls. Or books of the Bible. Or bad dreams about high school algebra. Sorrry.

Anonymous said...

OK- Here's the story. One- Having been born in South Florida and lived there for 39 years, I know a "little "about Cuban culture. Plus my beautiful wife of 28 years was born in Cuba. Two- Conyo is not a noun any more than c*** is a verb. The context that the word is used in is what matters. Just watch Chris Rock- Kill the messenger. Believe what you look up on the internet, Al Gore invented it! NEVER heard it used with that meaning! It usually is used to mean damn it, but also is used to mean a sense of wonderment. Like whoa or no way! If you are looking for a word that Cubans use to refer to female anatomy, try papaya. Boycott your local produce dept. because they use that word. Total BS article. Kitchen staff? There is just the owner and a server. Learn in person, this internet thing is kinda like like flying a plane after learning on your Playstation.