Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mistakes from our Spanish students - Part 2

Continuing ...

"Juan vive con su hermano paso." (...step brother) [From Gilberto S.]

"Yo bebo Coca-Cola, refrescos y el gustar." (...and the like.)

"Zedilla carne López." (Zedilla meets López -- another homophone.)

Description of a dance step that uses "el dedo y el curar" (the toe and the heel -- yet another homophone)

"El sol fue culo las nubes." (..behind...) [From Jala P.]

"El profesor es querer decir." (The professor is mean.)

"Compro un poder de frijoles." (...can of beans.) [From Ana S.]

Mistakes from our Spanish students - Part 1

Years ago, when I regularly taught Spanish, I started collecting the most amusing mistakes made by my students and by those of my co-workers. Just as a lot of advanced-ESL errors in papers come from overreliance on the spellchecker, a lot of mistakes at the beginning Spanish level come from misuse of the dictionary -- mostly from using the wrong Spanish translation for an English homonym. (For example, in Spanish, the hole in the ground from which one take coal is a "mina"; the pronoun expressing that something belongs to me is "mío". In English the word for both is "mine".)

Here is my collection of the best (?) mistakes, previously kept on 3x5 cards, awaiting their day in the sun.

"Me gusta el estacionamiento porque es cerrar." [I like the parking because it is close.)

Local baseball team: "Columbus Tijeras de Podar" (Columbus Clippers) [From Daniel C.]

Regarding the need to wear warm clothes in winter: "porque puede dejar caer a bajos adolescentes a tiempos" (because it can drop to the low teens at times) [From Daniel C.]

"Deseo tener una familia grande con tres cabritos." (I want to have a large family with three kids.) [From Tim F.]

"El Salvador mentiras between Nicaragua and Honduras. (...lies...)

En Cuba la fiesta comunista gobierna el país."

"Mis tíos están construyendo una casa este caída." (...this fall)

"Los productos importantes de Argentina ... incluyen ... planchar." (...iron)

"La Ciudad de México es la mayúscula de México." (

"Khadafi restos a grande." (Khadafi remains at large.) [From Jala P.]

"Fui a un raro." (I went to a bazaar [bizarre] -- in this case it's a homophone rather than a homonym.) [From Lisa W.]

More to come ...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heard on NPR

As I was listening to NPR the other day, I heard a verb form I'd never heard before. A woman was talking about something she wasn’t sure how to do, but she did it anyway. How did she manage? “I completely wung it.”

Sure, it sounds silly, but what are the alternatives? Winged it? Wang it? Is "to wing it" possibly a verb that doesn’t have a past-tense form?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Recently one of my instructors asked me if I wanted any black swallowtail butterflies still in their chrysalisieses — their chrysalieses — still in their shells. 

Lina (the instructor) and her daughters had found oodles of them in their garden. She had offered them to the science teacher at her daughter's school, thinking it would be a great science project — to watch them break free, dry their wings and then get set free by loving children. 

Nope. Not a chance.

The response from the teacher? "We don't allow living things in our classroom." 

Honest and truly. No joke. 

While that attitude is pathetic on a number of levels, this post isn't about something sad. This post is about Basil. 

I put Lina in touch with our refugee/immigrant afterschool program, and they were thrilled for the opportunity for the kids. When Lina brought in the fetal butterflies for the afterschool program, she brought a special one for me. Instead of attaching itself to a plant stem, this one had attached itself to a plant identification stake in her herb garden. The stake was labeled "Basil". Therefore, we named my fetal butterfly Basil. 

Basil hung out (literally) on his stake next to the window in my office. I waited.
And waited.
And waited.

I was beginning to be very afraid that there wasn't any Basil in there. 

Then one morning I got to work and the chrysalis was empty except for some brown liquid. 


Finally I saw him, hanging perfectly still on a power cord. As I was staring at him, he spread his wings as if to say, "Look at me. I am soooooo beautiful!" 

Flo and I caught him, took him outside, told him we loved him and set him free to flutter off into the shrubs. It was a wonderful, magical moment.

I stand corrected

I sent the write-up about the bidders' conference to the head of our grants office, who was there as well. She was good enough to let me know that according to recent changes in federal guidelines, in states east of the Mississippi, the ferret must be a male. 

It's great to work with real professionals! 

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Sharon (in our registration office) found this yesterday while she was cleaning her desk. In case it's not immediately obvious (it probably wouldn't be immediately obvious even if I'd taken the picture with something better than my cellphone camera), it used to be a blue stress ball -- y'know, one of those small, softish objects that one is supposed to squeeze to relieve stress. 

Well, I guess this little fella proves that around here, sometimes even the stress balls have meltdowns!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The trials of seeking funding

One of the challenges of being in the nonprofit/education field is the continual need to look for funding from any possible source — private foundations, government agencies, companies ... whatever. For us, a large source of funding has been service contracts with the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services. Every time a new RFP (Request for Proposals) is made available, they have a bidders' conference in which they go through all the details of the requirements. And since this is federal funding (in the case of the county DJFS, at least), there are a LOT of them. 

Today was one such bidders' conference (four — count 'em, four! – hours), and it was my eighth or ninth in regard to county funding since I've been in this job. Therefore, I'd heard a lot of the information before, but there was just enough new detail that one couldn't just zone out. 

Unfortunately, mid-afternoon is not my best time for an extended attention span, even though I did have my coffee at hand. So this is what I wrote during one part of the presentation:

A week is defined as a period of seven consecutive days  [NOTE: The preceding is actually a really-truly quote — word for word — from the presentation.]  for those who have resided in two-parent households for under six months in the case of individuals over the age of 18 whose surnames begin with A-M or for those who have resided in single-parent or group homes for more than a year, unless their surnames begin with N-Y and they have freckles. These individuals are eligible for core activities during one of the weeks (as defined above) if and only if there is a full moon within the past 15 days of the application date during an month with an "r" in it.

If, however, the sun is in Aquarius, and if the applicant has two minor children and/or an underage ferret in the household, he/she may participate in core or non-core activities for up to six months. By the end of this period, the applicant needs to provide Franklin County with confirmation of a completed dental exam and a scheduled colorectal exam, which must take place by the end of the federal fiscal year in the case of applicants from the Northern Hemisphere, or by the end of Groundhog Day for all others.

 ... And you know what is even more special? I get to go back for the rest of the bidders' conference TOMORROW!