Asking for Cock in a Portuguese Supermarket

There are some linguistic faux pas that are mildly amusing, and then there are those that you’ll be reliving for the rest of your life with your innards squirming like a bucket of maggots under a floodlight. And, oh boy, this one will stay right up there in #1 position until the day I draw my last breath.

But let’s first set the scene. In June 2015, my friend Noelia and I embarked on a drive across the searingly hot Spanish Peninsula, from our homes in central Spain all the way down to the Algarve, Portugal. My Portuguese teacher kindly let us use her sea view apartment in the little town of Alvor for a week – an offer two gals obsessed with Portuguese food could not possibly refuse.

All was perfect with the abode, except for the minor matter of flat remote control battery, which meant that we could not access our allocated parking space. The next morning, we made our way to the local supermarket to buy a replacement battery (as well as loading up on delicious Portuguese cheese).

Now, the Portuguese language is rather tricky to pronounce, and, as in all languages, small deviations can make a huge difference to the meaning of words. Even though Noelia and I both speak fairly passable tourist-level Portuguese and we thought we knew the word for “battery” (pilha), our attempts at locating one in the store was but met by several pairs of quizzically raised eyebrows.

Our remote control required an N-size battery, which is even tinier than AAA, and so “We need a really small one, like this” were among the words that accompanied our hand gestures involving tumb and index finger indicating the size of the desired object.

Eventually, it dawned on the beleaguered members of staff what it was we were looking for, and they ushered us to the appropriate shelf, but, in the end, the store did not sell this particular kind.

While waiting in line to pay for our mountains of cheese, we were discussing, with obvious frustration, how hard it could possibly be to get hold of a silly little battery.

At this point, the guy behind us in the queue, a man in his sixties who could not help earwigging our (Spanish) conversation, cracked up laughing. Once he had managed to recover sufficient breath (but not a straight face), he told us what we had, in fact, been asking for.

Suddenly the staff’s perturbed facial expressions made sense… The helpful bystander to our phonetic phallacy also reliably informed us that, in Portugal, they did not, in fact, have small ones.

It subsequently transpired that Noelia, despite being blessed with a rather forgiving Mediterranean complexion, does not carry off the shade of beetroot very well. As for myself, I can’t say, as I had cringed into a tiny little ball ready to be swallowed by the Earth that was surely about to open up its merciful maws.

Salt cod (bacalhau) on offer at the supermarket we can never ever go back to

Salt cod (bacalhau) on offer at the supermarket that we can never ever ever go back to

Alvor beach, which we DID return to. Frequently.

Alvor beach, which we DID return to. Frequently.

Alvor Beach - rocks

Alvor Harbour

Me trying to choose a cake in a blur...

Me, in a blur, engaged in the task of choosing a cake

...and the result: An enormous marshmallow-inspired slab of a cake!

…and the happy end result: A crockery-busting squishy slab of a cake!

This wasn't the only cake occasion. Here is a delicious three-layered composition with figs and almonds

Needless to say, there were plenty more cake occasions. Here is a delicious three-layered composition of figs and almonds

Portuguese custard tart. Absolutely mandatory.

Portuguese custard tart. Absolutely mandatory.

It wasn't all cake, of course. We stuffed ourselves with seafood :)

We also stuffed ourselves with seafood 🙂 This cataplana (a traditional seafood stew) was meant to serve two, but would probably have fed six strapping sailors.

Not so sure about the entertainment...

Some questionable local entertainment… would a visitor from northern Europe really take their kid to watch a terrified animal having spears rammed into its back?

At least the dogs know to take it easy in this town!

…but the dogs sure know to take it easy in this town!

 

You may also be interested in my specialist language blog, see here: http://multilingualbychoice.blogspot.com

 

 

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110 thoughts on “Asking for Cock in a Portuguese Supermarket

    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, quite a bit like that. But at least in Spanish, I won’t fall into that trap anymore (at least not so easily), LOL. Funnily enough, I never liked those little custard tarts, at least not while I was living in the UK. They are an acquired taste 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. roughseasinthemed

        Oh no!!!! I loved custard tart. One of the few desserts I ever liked! My mother and grandmother made huge ones, but the local shop did small ones. Yummy pastry and melty custard. Sighhhh

        I bet you didn’t like curd tart either did you?

        Liked by 2 people

      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        I do like custard 🙂 Custard tart, though, is not my favourite, I must admit. Oh my, this has just reminded me of when I worked for a McDonald’s supplier company in the early 90’s and had to make custard from industrial ingredients. It took years until I could eat custard again.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. June

    No shame in asking for a small one every now and then! I’d go back and ask for a really large one, then nonchalantly buy half a dozen custard tarts while they’re picking themselves up off the floor. The food looks yum – I’m kinda jealous!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  2. Jenna

    OH my gosh the photos are gorgeous! I’ve been wondering what you’ve been up to!

    Looks like you have joined Linda, Anna, and I in the recent surge of writing about some phallic slip! And…in Portugal they don’t have small ones…that’s wishful thinking if I’ve ever heard it 😛

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
  3. Heyjude

    So funny! I love Portugal too and those delicious custard tarts are not at all the same as the English egg custard tarts (but I like those as well). Nice to see you. And cake.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  4. Kim G

    I think it’s high time you went shopping for more, uh, of those things. Only this time, in addition to asking for small ones, you should also ask that they be of high quality and last a long time. And note that you’re willing to pay a bit more for quality, but won’t hesitate to return one that doesn’t function properly. And maybe while you do it, you could ham up your German accent just a smidgen, to heighten the effect.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we wonder how many other northern Europeans go to Portugal asking for the same thing. And how many leave just as disappointed?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  5. Kim in Fiji

    WELCOME BACK! (If you have been around for the last 6 months, my computer has been doing some bad stuff to your posts.) What a joy to see another post from you. Hilarious, yummy and lovely. I must never meet you, having sworn off sugar – but love looking at the scent free photos. If you ever come Pacific-ward, do not ask for “Tang ” (the breakfast drink) in Chuuk, a “peeler” unless you pronounce it perfectly in English from an Indian shopkeeper, and do not mention “chilly” in Guam. We had a lot, lot, lot of with “chilly/chili” in Guam, from an American radio host’s annual “Hot Chamorro Chili Contest” to my best friend’s comment “i got a little chilly last night”

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. Everyday Asia

    Welcome back!! And true to form!! Giggles galore… and love the pics. Cake porn. Beach porn. Phallic references… Must write something about pissing milk and spinach head one of these days – Bahasa Hindi mix ups!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
      1. Everyday Asia

        You sure did! I’m super jealous of the custard tart and cake action! Even more so the seafood – given that I’ve developed a bizarre allergy can only experience vicariously! Argh! The torture!!!

        Like

    1. TheLastWord

      I’d like to read your Hindi Bhasa mix up story!

      I remember my first attempts at Bengali. I was trying to say “he lives next door” and actually said “he lives in my armpit”. So remember folks, the Hindi word “bagal” does not translate easily to the Bengali word “bogol”…. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. TheLastWord

        Of course my Bengali mom-in-law was always surprised by my expression when she asked me if I wanted to ‘eat tea’. Bengali does not have a word for drink. They “eat” everything, including drinks.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      The Algarve sure has fabulous beaches… they go on for miles and miles… shame the water is too cold to swim for most of the year. Not while we were there, though, the heatwave is everywhere!

      Like

      Reply
      1. freebutfun

        Lovely! There was a beautiful sun at Christmas but obviously it wasn’t that warm even when out of water (but of course my brother surfed a few waves. But he surfed in Norway still in September – October).

        Liked by 1 person

  7. BerLinda

    I was already laughing just from reading the title 🙂 Good to have you back – and nice that a cock was the deciding factor – the old guy in the supermarket sounded like a character!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      He was great, in fact. We had a long conversation about politics, taxes and the spelling reform. (Yes, there was a long line at the till… but I’m sure we entertained every single customer…)

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  8. Jackie Cangro

    Figs and almonds sound like a glorious combination in a cake. Which reminds me of a similar adventure in Italy asking for a scoop of fig (fico) gelato. Except I said “fica” and that’s slang for a certain female body part. No, I didn’t want THAT kind of gelato!

    Great photos! Looks like you had lovely weather on your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Oh, it was an excellent cake… all sweet and moist and with a great texture. And I shall remember that little nugget of information for the next time I’m in Italy 😉

      Like

      Reply
  9. TheLastWord

    Hmm – I can imagine how you immediately bought a few cakes just to get over your embarrassment!

    I looked up Vogeln, I don’t think I will have occasion to use that phrase in the near future , but that is now not going to leave my head.

    That beach is gorgeous!

    Welcome back!

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      It’s not vogeln, it’s vögeln – the umlaut makes a difference to pronunciation and meaning. Worth pointing that out, in case you should find yourself compelled to use it 😉 And yes, you’re spot on, a few cakes will make me get over just about anything. YAH!

      Like

      Reply
      1. TheLastWord

        Luckily, I’m not an ornithologist, but not averse to watching a pretty bird or two…. 🙂

        I shall have to watch Youtube videos on how to pronounce it now.. just to complete my eddicashun.

        Like

  10. Pingback: Scratching A 30-Year Itch | Lady Of The Cakes

  11. doctorgladstone

    This reminds me of a story I read about someone who was in Israel and ran into a friend on a bus he hadn’t seen in years. He wanted to say “I didn’t recognize you with your mishkafayim (eyeglasses) on” as the person had not needed them the last time they met. What he said was “I didn’t recognize you with your michnasayim (pants) on”. It’s something I found on the BBC website ages ago (http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/yoursay/lost_for_words/hebrew/pants_or_glasses.shtml )

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  12. Lynda

    Dear Lady of the Cakes,

    You and I seem to be taking the same vacation from blogging of late. I wish I could say I have been busy like you, but that is not the case on my end.

    And, although you may have been rarely heard from of late, may I say that your posts are in rare form as always?

    Thank you for the laugh it was so welcome!
    Lynda

    Like

    Reply
    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Aw, thanks, Lynda! I’ve had a trapped nerve for about four months, and I had to limit my computer time due to the pain. But I also needed a bit of a break to gain some headspace re. the kind of blogging I enjoy, which means fewer posts but, hopefully, of good quality 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Lynda

        RE: Quality – Nailed it! 😀
        (My vacation from blogging has been my arthritic knees. I can’t remain sitting long enough to write much of anything. and it isn’t really the sitting, it’s the getting back up that kills! 😦 )

        Like

  13. Ellen Hawley

    Okay, I’ve gotta share a story. A friend, who speaks English, Russian, Spanish, and German–all well, had an Italian boyfriend. She didn’t speak Italian well and relied on knowing that the Spanish H tended to show up in Italian as an F, and similar tricks. (I’ll take her word on that, but onward.) So they went to Italy and stayed with the boyfriend’s mother, who asked, in Italian, if there was anything she didn’t eat. She wanted to say she didn’t eat liver, did her H to F trick, and ended up saying she didn’t eat pussy.

    I think she gave up on Italian at that point. The boyfriend? He’s no longer around.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  14. Pingback: Language Learning: Portuguese Potholes | Lady Of The Cakes

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