Traveling to another country–traveling anywhere–creates the opportunity to learn new phrases and traditions. Sometimes, though, things get lost in translation.
“How come no one takes anything from those shops,” Liam asked me after we gone through customs in Abu Dhabi and were standing outside waiting for our cab into the city.
“What shops?” I wasn’t paying attention; I was too busy breathing the warm air, tangy with the smell of the ocean.
“Those duty shops, in all the airports? How come no one steals the stuff?”
Now he had my attention. “Well, all those things cost money. You have to pay the cashier and–”
“What cashier? You mean someone works there?”
I nodded. Comprehension dawned across Liam’s face. “I didn’t think anyone worked there, you know, like it wasn’t anyone’s job. Like, free of duties, right?”
Reminded me of my friend S., whose mother, a number of years ago, was extolling the delicious eggs she found at a small country market in Maryland. “They’re wonderful,” the mother said, “but what’s a range chicken, do you think?” My friend S. stared at her and the mother explained: “They’re free range eggs, and they make great omelettes but I’ve never heard of range chickens before.” Clearly the store needed to re-think the placement of its hyphens. S. brought her mother to the store where she paid for about a week’s worth of not-free free-range eggs.
Example II: This sign, from the mall near to where our apartment is in Abu Dhabi. The sign hangs just inside the entrance to the mall:
What do you suppose happens in the romance room? If we were in another country, I’d guess hookers, but given that we’re in the UAE, I’m thinking not. Maybe it’s the place where men and women go to hold hands?