Monthly Archives: January 2013

Outlet of Frustration

Day 532 – January 4, 2013

Summer in our corner of Peru means it is time for the mosquitoes to come out. The little critters south of the Equator are not the tan buggers I am accustomed to from our time spent in Virginia. These Peruvian examples from the family Culicidae are small, black, and emit a high-pitched whine that keeps the family up at night.

For the past several weeks, we have relied on a device that plugs into the wall to scare off the mosquitoes. One inserts a small tablet into the device. The device heats up courtesy of being plugged into the wall and the heat causes the table to disseminate its anti-mosquito scent.

I’m sure the folks at Raid have a better way to describe it, but they can use the comment section of this blog to let me know.

This device has been working relatively well but the tablets are only good for one night. So, I decided to purchase another product that claims to work up to 45 nights. Here it is…

Anti-mosquito product sold in Peru

This device has a vial of mosquito repellent that is also dispersed by having the device plugged into an outlet. However, I noticed a slight flaw in my plan after I brought the device back from the local grocery store. Look back up at the picture above and note the horizontal configuration of the plug. Now look below and note the configuration of this outlet, which is how all the outlets of our house look.

Outlet in Peru

A horizontal plug combined with a vertical outlet result in this…

Mosquito controller placed in outlet incorrectly

…which also equal a spillage of anti-mosquito liquid.

I grant you that this leakage of whatever this compound is pales in comparison to the Exxon Valdez or the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but a high concentration of this anti-bug juice is not a pleasing odor.

I was, as you could surmise, quite frustrated over this incompatibility of plugs and outlets. When my lovely wife came home, I shared with her my frustration by showing her the horizontal configuration of the device and the vertical configuration of the outlets.

She took the device in her hand and twisted the plugs so that they were now vertical, like so…

Mosquito controller with turned outlet

I’ll be honest here. I had no idea electrical devices could do that or that there would even be a need for plugs to rotate. With the configuration problem solved, the device is in the wall scaring away all the little mosquitoes.

That doesn’t mean that I still didn’t feel like this when I saw my lovely wife reorient the plug…

Picard facepalm

Lost in (Cinematic) Translation

Day 493 – November 26, 2012

These pages have seen my adventures in trying to navigate the world around me when I do not fully understand the language.

There has been my lack of clarity over why Toyota selling white cars now is big news.

There has been my disappointment over not been able to catch all the jokes of new episodes of Phineas and Ferb.

There has been our misunderstanding over “cancelling” our order with Pardo’s Chicken.

With all of those (and more) linguistic landmines, I am pleased and comforted to see that the art of mis-translation is a two-way street.

In today’s edition of Lima’s free daily newspaper, Publimetro, there was an article highlighting the 70th anniversary of the movie Casablanca. A sidebar of this article mentions that this film contains six quotes that are on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Movies Quotes list.

In Spanish, the sidebar notes that “Esto va por ti, muneca” (Here’s looking at you, kid) is number five, “Louis, creo que este es el inicio de una amistad hermosa” (Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship) is at number twenty, and “Siempre nos quedara Paris” (We’ll always have Paris) checks in at number forty-three.

Of note is the Spanish version of the line (number 32 on AFI’s list) uttered by Louis Renault (played by Claude Rains), “Round up the usual suspects.” Publimetro writes the line as “Arresten a los sospechosos de siempre” which comes out to “Arrest the usual suspects.” It’s not a huge gaffe, but it does alter the meaning a tiny bit.

What really caught my eye was where the Publimetro article wrote that the quote that was number 28 on AFI’s list was “Tocala otra vez, Sam”. This translates to “Play it again, Sam.” There are a pair of mistakes with Publimetro’s words. For starters, the actual quote that resides in the twenty-eight spot (just below “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!” from Midnight Cowboy and just above “You can’t handle the truth” from A Few Good Men.) is “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.'” which is uttered by Ilsa Lund (played by Ingrid Berman) to the piano player, Sam (Dooley Wilson).

The second mistake is the fact that the line, “Play it again, Sam” is never uttered in the movie. While “Play it Again, Sam” is a fine film by Woody Allen, it is a line not in the film and often misattributed to the character of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart).

Part of me is heartened to see that I am not alone in my penchant for not translating something correctly. However, the other part of me also realizes that the linguistic problems of an American in Peru no equivalen a una colina de frijoles en este mundo loco.

Now Available in White

Day 493 – November 26, 2012

My lack of Spanish has left me scratching my head over what I’m sure is an interesting story I read in a newspaper.

In this Monday’s weekly section of El Comerico called Dia_1, there is a small sidebar story with the simple headline of Toyota vende autos blancos (Toyota sells white cars).

I’m not quite sure why it’s big news (or even small news) that a Japanese car company is offering the color white as an option for its vehicles. To my mind, white seems to be a fairly standard hue (examples are here and here and here).

The Dia_1 article had a picture of a white Toyota with the caption Retorna el color de la paz (Return of the color of peace).

The word “return” would mean, to me, that the color of white was once available in Peru and then, for whatever reason, was taken off the market.

I had hoped the actual story would answer my questions as to why white was once a taboo color in cars and why it has now come back. However, I was disappointed as my less-than-perfect translation of the article did not satisfy my curiosity. Here is the text…

La compania Toyota del Peru ha retornado la venta de vehiculos de color blanco en el pais. Segun expertos en marketing, la marca japonesa descontinuo en los ultimos anos este color de su portafolio de productos, como una manera de evitar que la mala reputaction de los autos de timon cambiado de esa marca contagie a los de timon original. Ahora que se ha prohibido la importacion de autos usados con timon a la derecha, nuevamente se haria viable la venta de autos Toyota del color de la paz.

This is the translation that Google Translate provided me…

The company Peru Toyota has returned to selling white cars in the country. According to marketing experts, the Japanese discontinued in recent years this color of its product portfolio, as a way to prevent the bad reputation helm of cars changed from getting to that brand of original rudder. Now that it has banned the import of used cars with the right rudder, this again makes feasible the sale of Toyota cars of the color of peace.

What appears to be throwing me is the Spanish word timòn which Google translates to “helm” but can also mean “rudder”, “tiller”, or “wheel”.

So did Toyota stop selling white vehicles in Peru because of some unfortunate event in the past that tainted the opinions of Peruvians towards carros blancos? Does white have some sort of cultural red line that Peruvians did not want to cross?

This article in microcosm exemplifies my experience as a non-native Spanish speaker living in a country where English is rarely spoken. When people speak to me or when I read articles in newspapers and articles, I feel as if I have only understood the tippiest tiniest part of the linguistic iceberg. There is so much more nuance and meaning that I am missing that I can only wonder what lies beneath.

Some days it’s missing out on why white cars are back on sale and some days it’s missing out on why and how people feel the way they feel.

As a parting note, if anyone has a better translation of the above story or knows why white was once a verboten tint, please feel free to drop a thought in the comment section.