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Confusion caused by accents


Mano
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In the 1960's I remember reading a sports memoir in which the author wrote about someone from the deep south ordering a steak in Wisconsin. He told the waitperson he wanted "The biggest stahk you have." He was served a huge stack of pancakes.

I have two, both involving the French. Whenever I need game meat or restaurant quality food a local French chef obliges me and orders it through his purveyor, usually D'Artagnan. I ordered some quail and quail eggs and we discussed how to stuff, cook and serve them. In a heavy accent, he recommended serving them "On a nest of 'toas".

"Toast?"

"Yes, 'toas. Grate it, make a nest and fry. Put the quail on top."

Pie faced, I just nodded and said, "Okay."

It wasn't until I got home that I realized he was saying potatoes.

The best new restaurant in Philadelphia is Bibou. I called and spoke with the French chef, Pierre Calmels, about a tasting menu on Sunday, versus the regular menu on Saturday. He went on about Sunday's prix fix "small menu." Of course, I opted to eat on Saturday. When we arrived I saw signs for the next night's snail menu.

If he'd just said escargots, I would've understood.

Anyone else?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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I was at a restaurant with a Japanese friend and there was a choice between rice or fries for the side. The Japanese don't have the "f" sound (labio-dental affricate) in their sound system, so although she ordered fries, it sounded like "rice" to the waitress (I understood her perfectly, but I'm used to Japanese English).

The waitress was really pissed off when she had to bring the order back.

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It's not only the spoken word. My wife and I are recently back (sigh) from Spain. The 'English' menus didn't always inspire me with confidence - I'm sure they (or their translator) knew what they meant, but it was often more satisfactory to get the Spanish or Catalan versions and work it out for myself. After all, most of us Hispanophiles know what 'jamon' is without needing it translated, right?

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My wife was ordering lunch once at a Latino chicken place on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, and the woman at the counter asked "le o bre" about a half dozen times, before my wife figured out that she was asking if she wanted the leg or the breast.

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My Aussie brother in law has had the following happen time and again when in the States:

Waitperson: "Soup or salad"

B-in-law: "yes"

This goes on for a while. He thinks they are saying "super" salad as opposed to offering him a choice of soup OR salad.

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As I live in a community that can be a bit intolerant*, I always try to be kind and respectful of those who were not born here.

A couple of years ago, in a local pho restaurant, I was greeted by a lovely hostess who said, "You are some more? King?" :blink: Try as I might, I could not figure out what she was asking me. She repeated it several times and it didn't help.

When she led me to the booth, she pointed at the 'no smoking' sign there. She looked very upset.

I was mortified.

She was trying so hard. . .and I wanted so much for her to feel accepted. :sad:

ETA:

*Actually, in saying that, I'm being very generous to my fellow WASPS. But don't get me started.

Edited by jgm (log)
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As I live in a community that can be a bit intolerant, I always try to be kind and respectful of those who were not born here.

A couple of years ago, in a local pho restaurant, I was greeted by a lovely hostess who said, "You are some more?  King?"  :blink: Try as I might, I could not figure out what she was asking me.  She repeated it several times and it didn't help.

When she led me to the booth, she pointed at the 'no smoking' sign there.  She looked very upset.

I was mortified.

She was trying so hard. . .and I wanted to much for her to feel accepted. :sad:

In all fairness to you, some accents are very difficult to understand no matter how tolerant you try to be. I find in my work (ESL teacher) that Vietnamese, Thai, and some subcontinental speakers of ESL have pronunciation problems and/or accents which are very difficult to understand (and very difficult for the speakers to overcome). I'm very good at understanding non-standard English, and even I have a lot of trouble with those accents.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just had an incident with my lead cook who is Mexican. He came out of the kitchen in a panic saying "Joanne! No more gus!!" I now panicked because Gus is not only a good waiter, but the absolute best expediter we've ever had. "What happened?? why did he get mad??" "No, Joanne, we have no gus!"

Well, this went on a la Abbot & Costello until I realized that construction workers in the building had turned off the GAS.

We've been laughing about this all week.

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Years ago at a business dinner in Paris I got confused between cervelles and crevettes.

Too macho to admit my mistake I went ahead and ate my raw brains vinaigrette.

or An old joke for you.

Charles De Gaulle had recently announced his retirement so the American ambassador to France threw a small, but formal dinner in his honor.

The ambassador was sitting next to Madame De Gaulle whose accent in English wasn't very good. The ambassador asked Madame what she was most looking forward to in her husband's retirement.

She replies; "a penis!" There were shocked gasps around the table until Le Grand Charles leaned over and said; " I think you pronounce that 'Happiness' my dear!"

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  • 4 weeks later...

For the longest time I thought the saute guy (who is from Mexico) where I work was calling me Cupcake. Before we started plating, he would always call out "You ready, Cupcake?" One day I realized he was saying "You ready crabcake?" As in, "Do you have the crabcake ready?"

Cheers,

Bradley

"'Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers."

Shakespeare

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my brother-in-law was a bartender for years. my fav story of his involves a japanese gentleman who sat at the bar and ordered a brown liquor drink

( i don't drink brown liquor, so i can't recall what the beverage of choice was). after ordering his drink, he added "and make it right." my b-i-l thought to himself "well, alrighty then" and noticed the fellow's eyes widen a bit as he gave an extra generous pour. as the man raised the hefty drink to his lips, my b-i-l realized that what the customer had actually said was "make it LIGHT"...which that drink certainly was not!

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

it's funny to read this thread, as I am sitting in a VERY nice restaurant in Thailand, and having finished my meal, the waiter just brought me a tiny cake as a thank you, and then when explaining it he referred to it as "seafood cake." I said "seafood cake?" he said "Yes, orange and the lamb"

Ah well. It was a perfectly nice white cake that might have orange in the frosting.

Edited by et alors (log)

"Gourmandise is not unbecoming to women: it suits the delicacy of their organs and recompenses them for some pleasures they cannot enjoy, and for some evils to which they are doomed." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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it's funny to read this thread, as I am sitting in a VERY nice restaurant in Thailand, and having finished my meal, the waiter just brought me a tiny cake as a thank you, and then when explaining it he referred to it as "seafood cake." I said "seafood cake?" he said "Yes, orange and the lamb"

Ah well. It was a perfectly nice white cake that might have orange in the frosting.

It's late here, so maybe that's why I don't understand what you've written at all. What was he really saying?

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