Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Linguistic superiority

I like to support my local shops. Particularly when they are cheap. But I am also happy to pay a premium when they are open and no-one else is. Or I can't be bothered to walk to the supermarket for a couple of items that I forgot the other day.

Fresh produce - certainly here in Spain and Gibraltar is often fresher than it is in the big supermarkets. Much of it is grown locally, or at least within hundreds of miles so it is not flown in, or sitting around for days in frigitrucks travelling the length and breadth of Europe.

I usually speak Spanish in the Moroccan shops and English in the Indian ones. Or a bit of both.

The other day I went to one of our local shops in Gib. (Not the one in the picture above - that's a different one that I also use). They had been shut for a while so I asked if they had been on holiday or if they were closed for another reason.

Sadly it turned to be a funeral. In India - hence the reason for the long closure. As I'd been to India some years ago I asked whereabouts. They had gone back to Mumbai so I said chattily what a nice place it was. The woman looked at me slightly puzzled, and said "I don't think so."

Perhaps it has changed since I was there. Apart from anything else - everyone called it Bombay way back then. So I added "Oh it's a while since I was there." Note to self: Be very careful when commenting about places you have not visited for more than 20 years.......

Some days later Partner went to the same shop. He has a very chatty relationship with the owner and his wife. For some strange reason the owner often speaks to him in an Indian language. I have no idea which one. Gujerati maybe? I've asked Partner what he is saying and had an exasperated response: "How should I know? Hello and goodbye I suppose."

Mostly though they speak in English, and sometimes in Spanish - which is par for the course in Gibraltar.

There were some Spaniards in the shop, so the conversation was in Spanish. They were asking about the price of cigarettes. Now this particular shop sells cigarettes and spirits at pretty cheap prices - hence he usually has a queue. The Spaniards were umming and aahing about the price. Eventually they decided they weren't going to buy any. (Don't know where they thought they were going to find them any cheaper).

The shop owner smiled nicely at them and suddenly switched into English. "OK. Please your fucking selves." And winked at Partner. "Adios," said the Spaniards and walked out of the door - fortunately without any idea what he had said to them.

I have to say Partner was somewhat speechless - although very amused - as he has never heard this guy swearing in English before. But I am beginning to wonder what the shop owner is really saying to Partner when he greets him in his Indian language.


Anonymous said...

Mumbai is a very exciting and interesting place. I can vouch for this via daughter who visited three years ago this month or last month. She came back full of it.

Wants to go back, more another time on this subject.

That was funny, the last bit with the guy swearing........made me laugh!

We were in a pub once, my Pa and I, and there was a family next to us.

Grandparents, parents, kids. Kids got restless and the kids also were effing and blinding; so the Grandma shouts at them in a loud voice -

"Just youse all stop your f***ing swearing!"

Me and my Pa could not stop laughing.

Supermarket stuff is never so good as local shops, especially when it is grown locally.

Still chuckling at the shop owner.....

KC and her Sunshine Band
Mud BOS Person.

Anonymous said...

meant to say, I love those little dark and cavernous Spanish shops.

Kat said...

OK - that was hilarious...I'd be wondering the same thing. I once ran a retail store in RI, where there is a large portion of Dominican people who speak Spanish. I took Spanish in High School, but unfortunately didn't retail much. Lucky for me, a couple of the girls who I hired did - and did explain that there is a loooooooot of bitchery spoken in different tongues! I knew it all along!

James said...

Great story. It's the little things that can make life so fun. We have a very nice lady, Ken, who sells her fresh produce along the side of the highway on the other side of the river. The price maybe slightly higher but her fruits, nuts and veggies taste so much better than that found in the large grocery stores. We support her as often as we can.

When I was in high school my family moved to Kano, Nigeria. I spent one year there before returning to the US to attend university. I consider that year in Kano as one of the best in my life and still say so.

When I now mention Nigeria, I must add a cautionary preface for things have changed. The Indian lady's comment about Mumbai brought a sad smile to my face. Guess one cannot go back home.

James (∆≈)

P.S. I wanted the pictures on my blog to be a little different. Now that I have started with that style I want to stay with it. As you guessed, it is a slow process. I think I will show the finished piece in the sidebar without the fancy touches.

Ferndoggle said...

I've always been paranoid about that!! Guess I need to learn to speak more than one language.


Peanut said...

Oh haha that's funny. Hmm he might not be saying anything bad but then again who knows. Maybe you should learn how to speak Indidan

lefobserver said...


Frasypoo said...

I am so glad I dropped by to say hi!!
You have got to remember what he says to Adrian and I will transalate!
The awful part is that every region in india is differant and when they know you dont speak the language they make fun of you in their language !!Even if you are Indian.

Your friendly neighbourhood Indian transalater,Frasypoo

Orable & Charlie said...

Hiya - sorry it takes me a while to get around in cyberspace - I must have a particularly slow saucer, but I DO get there! Thanks for visiting our blogs, & your comments on our Strelitzia Nikolai - it seems we've found a friend!

licks & slobbers
-Charlie & human

Mid-lifer said...

Hee hee - that's great! I was in the unique position once of being able to understand the language of a country I lived in and heard all sorts of stuff being said about and to me! I loved shocking them silly by responding in their own tongue and dialect.

Your blog reminds me of when we lived in the Middle East and most of the3 shopkeepers were Asian. Makes me want to move away again!

Jake of Florida said...

I used to wonder what the Chinese characters in Chinese restaurants really said about us American patrons!!

My first marriage was to a "pied noir" -- Frenchman from Algeria. When we left France and moved to Florida, my Mom was always sure we were talking about her. Once, we were talking about the sea (la mer) which we could see from the balcony of her apartment, and she said see, I knew you were talking about me (la mere, mother in French).

Here in South Florida, we hear a zillion languages -- Spanish, Creole (Haitian), French, French Canadian, Yiddish, Russian, Portugese, Spanglish, etc. Even our basic English comes in many many accents -- including Indian, Jamaican,Israeli, Palestinian, and "good-old boy" Florida/Georgia/Alabama southern, Brooklynese, and more. And of course, there's always Dog.

The "F" word does seem to be universal.


Em said...

That made me laugh :D When I used to go and stay in Canterbury with My Gramps, I loved eavesdropping on the foreign tourists and just dropping into their conversations if they were speaking a language I understood and were being rude or trying to find somewhere.. I think sometimes people forget that there are actually some English people who speak other languages...

Mind you, would've loved to have known what the Welsh barstaff were saying about us when I was a student in Wales...!