The unmitigated horror of it.
Herman Cain has been catching some flack because, in a Cuban restaurant in Miami, he asked how to say “delicious” in Cuban. Doesn’t the cretin know they speak Spanish in Cuba? Sheesh! Maybe Mr. Cain thought Cuba was in Asia. Nope, that was Hawaii, (one of the fifty-seven states) and it was some other guy.
But it’s not that simple. Would you, in New Hampshire, use the Texan phrase “big hat and no cattle” to describe a guy with lots of silly ideas but no substance? English is spoken in the United States; how does one say “delicious” in rap-talk or Ebonics?
When I studied a bit of Spanish in Cartagena, Colombia I discovered that there are idioms peculiar even to one city, Cartagena. My instructor gave me a slang expression to fend off, inoffensively, street vendors: “estoy mandao.” I haven’t been able to find it in my Spanish-English dictionary and perhaps my spelling is a bit off, but I understand that literally it means, “I’ve been castrated.” However, in the context of dealing with pesky street vendors attempting to vend it means, “I don’t have any money.” I used it a couple of times in Cartagena — pointing at some bags my wife and I were carrying — and it worked.
Here in Panamá, there are indigenous people who speak various native languages rather than Spanish. The Kuna Indians living in the San Blas Islands do so and many of the older women don’t speak Spanish. Here’s a photo of my wife posing with some Kuna women trying to sell molas. Even when speaking with a Kuna fluent in Spanish, throwing in a phrase in the Kuna language was well received.