Friday, January 12, 2007

Pronunciation and Refrigeration by Helen

Pronunciation is a real challenge. For example, the other day I ordered some ham. Jamón común. There are lots of kinds of ham, and I wanted común. The nice lady repeated it for me several times and I repeated it back, not hearing at all what fine differences she is hearing. Hah-mun ko-mun. After a few trys she tells me I said it ¨perfecto¨. Today I went to the same store and a man was working instead of the woman. I said ¨Hah-mun ko-mun por favor¨ in my best practiced accent. He just looked at me with no idea what I wanted. I repeated it two more times and he said ¨Jamon natural?¨ Now, how did we get from the sound of ¨ko-mun¨ to the sound of ¨na-ture-el?¨ I mean, really, how could I have possibly been THAT far off. But that is the rule, not the exception. He was old though, maybe he was deaf. I´d like to think that he is deaf, and that I said jamon comun perfecto. And, like the states, 5 people will tell you 5 different answers to the same question regarding definitions, or what words are used for what, or when or how. For example, I went to the bar and asked the bartender what he is called. He said he was called ¨bartender¨. Now this surprised me because I thought he may have been speaking english, so I questioned him again and again. Yup, barTENDER. So, in my homework essay I use the word ¨bartender¨ and the teacher tells me there is no such word. Barman maybe, but bartender, no. No sense arguing, just erase TENDER and insert MAN. Anyway, I came home with 12 pesos worth of ham instead of 5.50 pesos which I wanted.

As for refrigeration, I am beginning to question everything we keep cold in the states. When you go to the deli and order ham and the person takes it out of the case, is the case cold? When a deli makes sandwiches ahead of time for lunch, do they keep them cold? Have you ever seen eggs that were just kept out on the counter? Well, the ham and cheese from the deli are sold at a temperature that is the same as the warm un-airconditioned store, and the sandwiches sit in windows for god-knows-how-long and eggs are never refrigerated. At home I´m afraid to eat the ham if it accidentally sits out all night, but here I am buying it that way. Maybe it is preserved differently, I don´t know, but when in Rome . . . (good thing I got that hep-A shot)


Lucia said...

helen, it's Andrés, Ana's son in Chicago. Your adventures in my city are very interesting. Just wanted to let you know, regarding the "ham incident", that you can buy two types of ham, crudo or cocido, meaning prosciutto or regular ham respectively. Either way I would urge you to try a sandwich "de salame y queso".

Ken and Helen said...

Andrés! from Chicago!

How fun that you have read the
blog. We are being challenged here on a daily basis, but so far really like it. The ham I speak of is listed with about 4-5 other hams and called común. It is the least expensive, 1.70, and I happen to like it the best. People outside of that deli do not know
what word I am using, so I can´t get any input, but that is how it is spelled. I will definately try the salame y queso.

Keep reading,


Theresa said...

Ah, it is not your accent, you are "speaking Spanish while Gringo", my husband will say in perfect Spanish "quisero una lemonada natural" and the mozo will look puzzled and ask "¿una cerveza?" I will repeat exactly what he said, and suddenly it is understood. We think they look at him and decide he isn't Yucateco so he can't speak Spanish, or the waiter thinks that his English just got way better!