Thursday, September 01, 2011

breakfast at tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

One afternoon while traipsing around Florence, my roommate and I came across a Tiffany’s jewelry store. I remarked that although it had nothing at all to do with Italy, we should get up early one morning before class, grab a pastry, and walk over to Tiffany’s—an homage to Breakfast at Tiffany’s, of course. I don’t know where this idea came from, but it just seemed like a glamorous and snapshot-worthy thing to do, and being that we did not have class until nine in the morning, we agreed that it was completely feasible.

A few days later, we set out at seven on our little adventure. We stopped at a pastry shop near Tiffany’s, across the street from one of the more notable churches, Santa Croce. There was a long line that moved at a frantic pace while those who had just made it through gulped down tiny cappucini and pastries at nearby tall tables without chairs (because who has time to sit while they eat breakfast?).

While waiting in line, we eyed the plethora of pastries behind the glass counter and debated on what to get. When Casey, my roommate, made it to the front of the line, she described in perfect Italian the pastry she had her eye on, to the man working the counter. Casey, being fluent in Spanish already upon arriving in Italy and adept at picking up new languages quickly, was miles ahead of me when it came to speaking Italian. I stepped up next and did the best I could. I had just learned the Italian word for “same” so I thought I would just say that I would like to have the same thing she had ordered. In English, I would have just said, “I’ll have the same,” and while in hindsight I’m still not sure if that direct translation works in Italian, that is what I attempted to do. Vorrei il sesso,” I said. He handed me the same pastry variety that Casey had gotten and rung it up on the register. For a moment I felt satisfied that the transaction had gone smoothly.

We bypassed the tall, chairless tables and started walking toward Tiffany’s. I replayed the situation over in my head, thinking about language school lessons about articles, such as the word the. In Italian, it’s not so simple. It can be la, il, or lo, and those are just the options for describing singular words. Il sesso. I thought it over. Yes, that was the right article. Then something dawned on me: lo stesso. Stesso is the word for same! I remembered suddenly. Then what is sesso? Have I heard that before?

I started talking it over with Casey. “Does stesso mean same in Italian?” She confirmed that it did. “Did you hear me order my pastry?” She had, and she didn’t want to tell me what I had said. “I think I said il sesso instead of lo stesso while trying to say I wanted the same pastry you had.” She confirmed that as well. I pulled out my dictionary and looked up sesso. “Casey!” I exclaimed, “Sesso means sex! I ordered the sex for breakfast!” I was mortified. I wished at the moment that I could have go back and repeat the whole thing, either correctly remembering the word for same or at least keeping my mouth shut and just gesturing toward the pastry I wanted. At least it will make for a good story later, I consoled myself. I tried to see the humor in the situation while eating my breakfast at Tiffany’s.

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