The Joys of Linguistic Faux Pas

The other night at dinner at Beach Sucos, a regular spot, I was happy to be handed the menu in Portuguese rather than English, as I always relish being mistaken for a Brazilian, or at least a savvy foreigner. I noticed the “Peito de Peru” section on the menu and called the waitress over to ask her what kind of Peruvian food the restaurant was offering. I had made the mistake of mixing up the words peito and prato (plate), thinking that the menu read “Plates from Peru.” The server looked very confused and shook her head in embarrassment as she backed away and motioned that she couldn’t really explain. I said, “é comida do pais de Peru?” to help her out, to no avail, as she only flashed an awkward, nervous smile. Later, I glanced over the same menu in English. Apparently, peru means “turkey” in Portuguese. And peito means “breast.” It would be interesting to have a menu featuring cuisine from the Breast of Peru.

(I should have figured this out sooner, as when I taught a lesson to Brazilian students on reading & analyzing texts for appeals to logos, ethos, and pathos, they snickered, thinking I was saying, “logos, ethos, and peitos”).


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