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...a sweatshop of moxie

Monday, January 26, 2009


It's with great sadness and some amount of embarrassment to inform you that I have roaches. Well, not in my house. But in my car! My new, lovely wonderful car.

Ugh, how does this happen?

You have to realise that cockroaches are not a British thing. Our climate is too cold for them to proliferate, so when I emigrated here, it was a complete culture shock. That's not even counting the godzilla roaches Floridians cheerily call, "Palmetto bugs". I'm convinced those have it out for me, because the moment they see me, they fly right at me. Grrr.

My car doesn't have that variety, but I did find two baby roaches, no bigger than the head of a pin inside my car today.

Fortunately, I was at a drive-thru' and not riding around, else the Miami Horrible's headline might've read, "Woman motorist causes accident on the 'wrong side of road'. Blames roach", which on top of everything, would make me sound like a crazy pot-smoking hippie-dippy chick.

Anyway, so I went to Publix and got myself one of those Roach Motels. Actually, they don't call them that anymore. They're "Guest Worker Houses" these days. On aisle 9.

The problem is there are so many to choose from: Scented, Unscented, Country Apple, Mimosa, Febreze Candle, Booty Call, and one very lovely smelling one called simply, Nutsack.

What did catch my eye was that the packaging was in both English and Spanish. Maybe I'm a little obtuse, because though I knew instructions on some packaging were in both languages, I hadn't realised that the blurbs in front were translated, too.

What are they trying to infer? That Campbell Soup eaters do not need billingual help, but that Hispanics are dirty, filthy beasts who have roaches in their houses? Humph.

I was just about to choose one when I read something which totally put me off the purchase. A Spanish grammatical mistake.

"Ataca el Nido Y Mata Las Huevos"

Las Huevos???

Not being a native Spanish speaker or anything, I appeal to José, Ernie and others to correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe it's LOS Huevos. And please stop snickering. I know, it also means "balls". In German too!

I finally left the supermarket with my real purchase in hand, only to arrive home and open it at last just now. It didn't catch my eye in the aisle, and though it's not a grammatical mistake, it just seems...off.

Check it out.

Las mascotas???

Since when does "pet" translate as a mascot in Spanish? That's some weird Mexican slang stuff right there.

Even if it does mean that in Cuban, Nicaraguan, Venezuelan, Argentinian etc. etc. Spanish, this brings to mind the pitfalls of translating the various Spanish usages, all in the name of political correctness. You're bound to startle or amuse one Spanish speaker, by using a word they wouldn't use in the name of all Spanish speakers.

I guess that's why they demurred from using the word "bichos" which for Cubans means animals (or indeed pets, I do believe), but it would cause a riot of protest from Puerto Ricans. You don't want to know. Hee.

Well, I'm off to go downstairs and scatter those bait traps around. I'll be damned if those cucas will get the better of me or my fresh ride.

Que rayos hacen en mi carro!

IN THE COMMENTS: José comes to the linguistic rescue by agreeing it's los not las huevos. What, they couldn't afford (1) a native Spanish translator (2) a proofreader??

And ElCubanitoKC asks incredulously:

You have bichos in your car, and you are trying to kill los huevos??

Ay, Dios mío!

Don't mess with me, brode!

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  • I guess that's why they demurred from using the word "bichos" which for Cubans means animals (or indeed pets, I do believe), but it would cause a riot of protest from Puerto Ricans. You don't want to know.

    But I do want to know! What do the perverted Puerto Ricans mean by the innocent word "animal"? (Which I, by the way, not being a Spanish speaker, know since a long time, courtesy the excellent and funny books of Gerald Durrell. Hope you have read them.)

    By Blogger El Kot, at Mon Jan 26, 02:11:00 am GMT-5  

  • Victoria, you are correct, it should be los huevos.

    El Kot,in Puerto Rico, bicho means penis.

    Buena suerte con tus cucarachas!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Mon Jan 26, 11:23:00 am GMT-5  

  • You have bichos in your car, and you are trying to kill los huevos??

    Ay, Dios mío!

    By Blogger ElcubanitoKC, at Mon Jan 26, 12:07:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Oyeme, y la tal cosa de los mascotas?

    That can't be right, Jose.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Mon Jan 26, 12:14:00 pm GMT-5  

  • mascotas are indeed pets in spanish, and not only slang, it's the actual meaning. Now, don't get me started with huevos and bichos please :)

    By Blogger dotJorge, at Mon Jan 26, 01:13:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Bichos = bugs in Cuban. For some reason, and unsurprisingly, the boricuas have found a phallic association here.

    huevos = eggs, but if you are talking to a "jodedor(a) cubano(a)" which is about 98% of us, his/her mind will automatically go South. Like boricuas, we can't help it...

    Mascota = a team's/business mascot, not quite pets. According to "Diccionario general de la lengua española (2001 Edition)" (el mataburros in Cubano) it is primarily used as that. It could also mean "pet", but its use as such is very infrequent.
    In Cuban and in most other variations of Spanish, pets are "animales domésticos". We don't call our language "verboso" for no reason...

    By Blogger ElcubanitoKC, at Mon Jan 26, 03:32:00 pm GMT-5  

  • According to DICCIONARIO DE LA LENGUA ESPAÑOLA - Vigésima segunda edición

    Mascota = Animal de compañía. As in "Tienda de mascotas".

    By Blogger dotJorge, at Mon Jan 26, 04:24:00 pm GMT-5  

  • I am not arguing whether it means that or not. However, if you are familiar with the Diccionario is structured, the fact that it is the last "acepcion" listed should give us a clue on its usage frequency.

    By Blogger ElcubanitoKC, at Mon Jan 26, 05:15:00 pm GMT-5  

  • El Kot,in Puerto Rico, bicho means penis.

    Thanks, Jose! This makes the context I saw the word in Gerald Durrell's books even funnier, because they were talking about a "lindo bicho", confirming it with "muy lindo". :)

    By Blogger El Kot, at Mon Jan 26, 11:08:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Well, it's very likely made in China, and you can't expect Mandarin speakers who have learned to write everything in English to also learn to write everything in Spanish overnight!

    Of course, some years back General Motors tried to sell the Chevy Nova in Latin America. They had a big advertising campaign but nobody bought one.

    No va. (It won't go.)

    Also some years back, Coca-Cola was trying to sell Coke in Hong Kong. That was when they were using the slogan, (you might remember it) "Coke adds life." So they had one of their executives who had taken a course in Chinese translate it. Then they put the translation on bulletin boards all over Hong Kong. Sales plummeted. It turned out that he had really said, "Coke makes your ancestors come back from the dead."

    By Blogger Eli Blake, at Thu Jan 29, 07:23:00 pm GMT-5  

  • By Blogger Adi, at Thu Nov 05, 05:22:00 pm GMT-5  

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