Our mention of attempts to master languages, including our own, led Courtland Chaney to share these two experiences from his travels abroad:

1. "While I was teaching an English laboratory class, an international student asked me what the word 'inundation' meant. I said 'flood,' then continued to explain something to another student.

"After a few minutes, the first student said she had another question: 'What does flood mean?'

"At that moment, I learned a very important lesson as a teacher."

2. "Working in Germany, I was on a train when the conductor asked to see my ticket and, after reviewing it, said, 'Sie mussen umsteigen.'

"I had no idea what he was saying, so I said in German that I did not understand.

"He repeated the phrase, but that did not help. So with a friendly Louisiana smile I said, 'Nein danke' (no thank you).

"When he repeated 'Sie mussen umsteigen,' I replied, 'Nein danke sehr' (no thank you very much).

"He made a gesture suggesting he had had enough and walked away.

"Soon after, I learned the meaning of 'umsteigen' (to transfer, as to another train), when I realized I was going in the wrong direction."

Universal language

Jo Ann Paulin, of Metairie, tells this language misunderstanding story:

"My hubby and I were in Monterrey, Mexico, where the altitude is just a tad higher than New Orleans,' and I got quite sunburned quickly.

"We went to a drugstore to purchase something for the burn. Using my high school Spanish and a dictionary, I tried to communicate that I needed 'sunburn cream.'

"The literal words weren’t working. My non-Spanish-speaking hubby said 'Noxzema.'

"That did the trick. Apparently brand identification works everywhere."

Which reminds me

Many years ago, I went with a group to a resort in the interior of Mexico.

One of the young ladies developed stomach problems, so she asked the resort's van driver to take her into a nearby village so she could get a remedy.

I rode along, because I needed to replenish our supply of a beverage I had discovered called "Corona." (This was before it became popular in the states.)

The driver took us to a tiny drugstore, where the clerk was very friendly but knew no English. The young lady knew a few words of Spanish, so she asked for "medicine" and pointed to her stomach.

The clerk nodded as if he understood, then went in the back and came out with some medicine. She took one look at it, blushed a deep red, and told me, "Let's get out of here!"

Outside, she told me the clerk had thought she was looking for something to induce an abortion.

Back at the resort, she treated her ailment with Corona. …

History lesson

Al Bethard, of Lafayette, questions a reader's description of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis opposing each other in an 1850s legal case involving a Mississippi River bridge and railroads vs. steamboats.

"Davis was not an attorney, so it is unlikely he represented any interests in court in the 1850s."

But as secretary of war in the Franklin Pierce Cabinet, he started surveys to determine routes for a proposed transcontinental railroad, so it's possible he testified in a case involving railroads. 

Special People Dept.

  • James and Dane Hawkins, of Dutchtown, celebrate 63 years of marriage Monday, Oct. 15.
  • Ronald and Vera Landry, of Belle Rose, celebrated their 59th anniversary Wednesday, Oct. 10.

Initial reaction

Bo Bienvenu, of Prairieville, recalls the days when Exxon was Esso and "their distributors were required to wear shirts with an Esso patch on the right and a patch with their name on the left.

"There was a full service gas station in Opelousas named Bee’s. The proprietor got tired of being called 'Esso Bee,' so he reversed the patches — against Esso's rules but much to the amusement of his customers."

Groaner of the Week

Algie Petrere asks, "Why does a chicken coop have two doors?

"Because if it had four doors, it would be a chicken sedan."

Louisiana Haiku

Sign of autumn here

Pumpkin spice in food and drink

But not in beer, please     

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.