In Italy there is a fine line between asking how old someone is and how many anus’s they have. This significant difference lies only within a split second lingering on the second ‘n’ of anni. Without this emphasis you set yourself up for quite an awkward situation—but like all unfamiliar situations there is always a lesson learned.
Little did I know that when I came to Italy, I would not only be learning Italian, but also Portugese and various Italian dialects. My roommate is Brazilian, so I always joke that I’m going to return to the US speaking Portugalian. I find myself inserting random words of Spanish into my conversations, but what is funny is that when I do it with my roomy, she understands me and actually thinks I’m speaking Portuguese, since the words sound so familiar. We are constantly teaching each other slang phrases, and I always come out with double definitions. For example in the US we say ‘cool,’ in Italy they say ‘molto figata,’ and in Brazil they say ‘muinto legal.’ ‘Everything good’ translates to ‘tutto bene,’ and also ‘tudo bem.’ Needless to say I am learning a bunch of new phrases, and also seeing how similar Latin languages are to each other.
What I love the most, though, is when we get completely lost in translation. One such scenario involved the explanation of the mysterious substance of peanut butter.
“What’s peanut butter?” Michelle asked.
“You mean you don’t have peanut butter in Brazil?” She shook her head affirming that peanut butter was just one of those wonderful things particular to one’s nation, like Vegemite to Australia, or Nutella to Italy.
Now came the problem: How does one describe a peanut to someone who didn’t understand the word for nut? Vegetable?—no. Fruit?—no.
“It’s a nut,” I said hoping that nut translated over into any of the languages we communicated in—but to no avail.
So I decided to go for some examples: Almond?—no. Cashew?—no. Chestnut—no. Macadamia Nut—
“Oh! I know him!” she exclaimed as we both got excited over what I thought was a final mutual understanding from this long explanation.
“Matt Damon…he’s my husband!”
Matt Damon? What was she talking about, Matt Damon? Oh! Matt-a-Damon-nuts!
I couldn’t stop laughing! We were completely lost in translation and it was completely hillarious.