The Jewish Scholar
One type of language mistake can arise when you honestly think you got it right, so you don’t feel the need to look it up.
My American friend Katie is learning Italian. Last April, we were in Sicily together. One evening she said: “Let’s have dinner at the Jewish Scholar’s.”
“Yeah, it’s a nice place with a seaside terrace. Good food, too. And friendly waiters. I was there last summer.”
“Ehm, well, I’m not sure – It didn’t look kosher to me. But what do I know? Maybe it’s kosherish. And hey, Jewish scholars may cook all kinds of food.”
So on we went.
The restaurant was closed. It was Wednesday. That really puzzled Katie. What Jewish scholar would be moving the Sabbath to Wednesday?
The name of the restaurant was Lo scoglio ubriaco.
“Katie, did you look up the meaning of these words?”
“Don’t need to – I can deduce! Ubriaco means Jewish, that I know. And “scoglio” must mean something like scholarly. It’s obvious. They don’t pronounce the g before an l, you know. The chef probably started out as a professor of something, and then he found out that cooking was more fun. He’s using all his wisdom in the kitchen now, to our benefit.”
Some good logical thinking here. It sounded plausible enough. Somehow.
Back to the real world. “Lo scoglio ubriaco” translates as “The drunken rock”. The restaurant is named after a legend of a shipwreck – a large vessel crashing its load of wine on the Cliffs. The Italian word for Jewish is “ebraico” – just one little vowel off, and two other vowels switched places – why fuss?
The legend doesn’t say anything about the captain of the ship, so for all we know, he may have been a wise Jew – though a poor navigator.
Making mistakes is a powerful way to learn. Katie is a master-mistake-maker. She will always be the first to make jokes at her own gaffes. She laughs – and learns. And everybody who is lucky enough to be around her benefits from it.