In Portugal, Portuguese people are nice. Folks have been friendly, warm, humorous, and relaxed. My Portuguese is crap, at best, but things seems to work out despite this.
I think I’ve figured out why. I’ve been assuring people that I don’t bite. Earnestly.
I do this when my over-friendly dog runs full-bolt at an unsuspecting person who has decided to walk down the street next to ‘our’ field. It’s a long, straight stretch, and once my happy little bundle of fur sees a potential new friend, it’s over no matter how far we are from the target of his would-be love.
In good dog-owner etiquette (which clearly lapses every time I manage to allow my dog to run at a stranger), I call out to the surprised victim to reassure them that my dog doesn’t bite so at least they know Cujo isn’t about to attack. I do this while I run full-bolt after my dog and towards them.
I yell out something that sounds like “não mordeo”… And I’m pretty sure that isn’t a word. I think I’ve ended up hybridizing he doesn’t bite and I don’t bite… So, as I run, shouting this and waving my arms apologetically (and reassuringly, I hope), folks tend to smile and say no problem (não faz mal)
não mordo -( I )don’t bite
não morde-( He) doesn’t bite
I thought about this about 15 minutes ago when a surprisingly happy hipster smiled and laughed while telling me it’s no problem, even though my dog was gleefully jumping at him (and his white, teeny jeans). Folks are nice, but that seemed too nice…. I was more worried about his white pants getting dog-ified than he was.
Wait a minute… and that’s when the light-bulb turned on in my head. No wonder he’s laughing. It sounds like I’m chasing him while yelling that I don’t bite. Great.
It reminded me of the time I asked what the fare was to ride a phallus.
I was in Bali in 2001 on a break from an intensive language course on Java. I spoke some passable Indonesian at this time, but as always, it was a struggle for me. (Learning language is always a painful experience for me…I still do it more than the average Joe, but it doesn’t mean I’m particularly good at it.)
I was walking around with a girlfriend, shopping the markets for kitsch (though at the time, it was treasure). I was thrilled to find a stand with stylized phalli, or lingam, representative of the Hindu tradition unique to Bali (the rest of Indonesia is primarily Muslim, with an ever-growing number of Christians).
Of course, I had to get one.
The tricky part was that while my girlfriend and I had been walking around, we’d been heckled and harassed by a number of skeezy-looking male vendors, all through the market. I was in a dark mood. I really wanted to hit someone by the time we got to the lingam stand. Of course, this vendor was an equally skeezy-looking man.
I decided I wanted to buy the most stylized lingam they had- it was wooden and twisted into a cork-screw. (Still, it looked like a big dildo. )
I composed myself like a bad-ass, and asked him, in my direct, no-nonsense, don’t-f%ck-with-me tone of voice how much it was.
What I actually said was “berapa ongkosnya?”, or “what is the fare”.
I should have said “berapa hargannya?”, or “what is the cost”.
It was all over. The crowd of creepy dudes who had followed us to the giant dildo stand just lost it. The vendor lost it. I’m pretty sure he offered me a free ‘ride’. I realized my mistake pretty quickly, and even I couldn’t help but laugh. I corrected my mistake and bought the giant corkscrew c#ck (by now, it was hard to look at it as a dignified lingam). I walked off with no dignity whatsoever.
And I haven’t screwed up the ongkos vs. harga use ever since.