Lost in Translation


Summer drinks in Plaza Tirso de Molina. My Russian friend (who is proficient in Spanish) orders some lamb to eat. It is translated (unusually, for Madrid) into English as ‘lamb stripes’. We assume that it means ‘lamb strips’. But when it arrives, the waiter presents ‘lamb tripe’. Even the Russian, who eats packets of dried squid mailed from Russia, cannot stomach this. She tries to explain (in fluent Spanish) that the dish has been translated incorrectly, but the waiter assumes that she simply doesn’t know what tripe is. After a bit of haggling, he agrees to exchange it free of charge.

Later, I decide to treat myself to a JD and diet coke. Single Spanish measures are equivalent to English triples; sometimes more. I don’t know the word for ‘straw’ so I ask the Russian for the word. She directly asks the waiter for a ‘paja’. Our Spanish friend chokes on her drink, the waiter leaves without responding, and I am confused. Apparently, the Russian has just asked the waiter for a wank. Amid hysterical laughter and stares from other tables, we discover that she should have asked for a ‘pajita’. I am too busy wiping away the tears to ask the waiter the next time he appears, so the Kiwi has to do it for me.

JD and diet coke never tasted so good through a straw.


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