Small proviso: Normally in the "I Love This Joke" series, I just write in dumb jokes that tickle my funny bone, but today I'm telling a true story that is just as good, if not better, than the best jokes I've ever heard. So here you go.
I was out with Monica and la Mamita de la casa tonight for some coffee talk and cappuccino, and conversation turned to embarrassing and/or hilarious translation gaffes people have experienced in the process of learning new languages. Naturally, I had much to contribute. We chuckled about the time I meant to tell a woman her husband was a gentleman, and instead, accidentally, informed her that her husband was hung like a horse. Caballo, caballero, they sound so similar! We sniggered delightedly about how I thought that all the cars in Santiago de Chile had converted to Catholicism because I misread the word "catalítico" (catalytic converter) on bumper stickers and thought it said "católico" (Catholic). We chortled merrily about how I thought the word for concierge was "consergio" (con-ser-hee-yo) instead of conserge (con-ser-hay) because the conserges at my apartment building and my work place were both named Sergio, and people always said "dejalo con Sergio" (leave it with Sergio). Con Sergio. Consergio. Get it? Har har. I know, these stories never translate well unless my audience also speaks both languages. So basically I told several of the stories I'm most proud of -- that is, the ones in which the most people laughed at my ignorance and stupidity, and got some pretty decent-sized laughs, which I've come to expect over the years, as on top of being glamorous, gorgeous, and unspeakably brave, I am a wickedly good story teller. But then, just as I was patting myself on the back and congratulating myself for telling the funniest stories in the whole world, Monica piped up with her own little linguistic gaffe, and left me clean in the dust. Seriously, I laughed so hard I peed myself. Just a little bit, but I did it. I peed myself. So here's the story:
One time Monica was at some conference in Switzerland. Some sort of international conference, and she was staying in a house full of international people, among whom was an American guy, a very serious type, evangelical Christian, constantly talking about God and living a righteous life, and stopping to pray all the time for whatever little thing happened. Somebody sneezed, he prayed. Somebody sinned, he prayed. Somebody said something off-color, he prayed. So one morning they were at breakfast, and Monica wanted the peanut butter, which was on the other side of Very Serious Praying Dude, and Very Serious Praying Dude was, you guessed it, praying. And praying and praying. Monica speaks English, but she doesn't use it very often, and sometimes, well, sometimes you just get words that rhyme mixed up. So she's sitting there waiting for him to finish praying and praying and praying, and she's getting a little frustrated. Finally he looks up, and Monica seizes her opportunity. "Excuse me!" she called out down the table. "But could you please pass me the penis butter?"