12th Jun, 2008

What language do your products speak?

[For an explanation of what’s going on here, you might read Incognito ergo sum.]

I really like the flat I’m staying in here in Albarracín. It has a beautiful view despite the medieval moisture level. It also has all the modern conveniences, including a dishwasher that speaks Italian.

Yes, that’s right, every few days, I am forced to have a conversation with the dishwasher in Italian. I am not surprised that in this little trout-fishing town you have to go elsewhere to buy a large appliance, but I would have thought that Spain had a few dishwashers on offer. At any rate, every once in a while, once my peace of mind has accumulated to the necessary level, I try to run the dishwasher. It never goes well.

This is your dishwasher speaking.

Rather than having a series of dials like in the good old days, this dishwasher merely has a couple of buttons with indecipherable symbols and a little LCD screen, which is how it talks to me. So every dish-washing session is of necessity preceded by an interview, which is in Italian. My Italian is awful.

First it greets me with “Buongiorno”, no matter what time of day it is. That’s not a problem. The problem is that after it askes me Desideri opzioni? (Who doesn’t want options?) it launches into a series of questions about lavaggio and risciacquaremento and other things I don’t understand:

Programmazione guidata?

Mezzo carico?
NoSì, con grappa

Parlare sporco?

Ti piace Berlusconi?

It always takes me at least fifteen minutes of trial-and-error to find the right sequence of buttons to push, so that it won’t just say fine, which somehow does not seem to mean everything is fine.

After that, it’s a welcome change to seek refuge in the other products in the kitchen, which feature, more or less, Spanish text. My friend Alejna recently shared some products she encountered in Brazil, so I thought I would show you some of my favorites here in Spain.

To continue with the cleaning theme, we have an old friend you may know by one of his aliases.

Just call him Don.

Just call him Don.

Sometimes words do seem to cross language boundaries in ways they really shouldn’t, however.

Uh, Top Neils?

Uh, Top Neils?

Moving on to food, we can start with SOS rice.

When you REALLY need rice.

When you REALLY need rice.

This next one is a good example of how it’s really best to have some text that makes it clear what language this is supposed to be.

Um, is that Spanish?

Um, is that Spanish?

Here’s a product that I simply had to buy when I saw it in the shop, to make sure that it was not, in fact, artichoke-flavored cookies. They turn out to be chocolate cookies whose name seems to derive from the company name. Fair enough, but it’s not a name I would take into the international market.

And the flavor is...?

And the flavor is…?

We end with my favorite coffee brand, not because the coffee is better, but because the name is wonderful, and lends itself to the composition of silly jingles, which I will spare you.

How often do you want a Bonka?

How often do you want a Bonka?


I want a Bonka right now!

Oh, those are excellent! What a fun post. Hurray for Bonka!

I’m not sure that the Limpio name would do so well in this country.

And I love artichokes! But perhaps not well enough to want them in my cookies. (I did try artichoke liqueur. It was nasty stuff.)

As for the Neils one, I think I’m not getting something. What am I missing?

Calin, I hear ya!

Alejna, whatever you’re missing in the Top Neils one, I’m missing too. The only think I can think of is that it’s pronounced “top nails”, and it’s a dishwashing liquid that’s good for your nails. But maybe that’s too much of a stretch…

I actually have artichoke tea in my house (back home). It has something in common with your artichoke liqueur (besides the artichokes).

Well, believe it or not “Don Limpio” used to be called “Mister Proper” a few years back. So, de Guatemala a Guatepeor?

The Wikipedia page on Mr. Clean (yes, they have Wikipedia pages for everything) has the following to say:

The name “Clean” is usually translated into local languages: in Canadian French M. Net; in Spain, Don Limpio; in Mexico, Maestro Limpio; in Italy, Mastro Lindo; in Germany, Meister Proper; in France, Monsieur Propre.

Why the Spanish would have used “Mister Proper” is a good question. Now Miguel, can you shed any light on “Top Neils”?

Dunno… But “Top Neils” just rocks my world, man!

Oh, about Berlusconi (“Il Cavaliere”):

I’m a fan of Meister Proper. I should move to Germany.

Is the third dishwasher option: “Do you speak spork?” I mean it is a dishwasher, maybe it likes sporks.

Jean, I realize that this is way late, but: I don’t think that being a fan of Meister Proper is a good enough reason to move to Germany. Believe me, I moved to Germany for an almost equally silly reason once.

Next time I visit Albarracín, I will ask the dishwasher whether it likes sporks. Though I’m not sure they have them either in Spain or in Italy.

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