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I Love Corn

by Laura on September 9th, 2013

It was bound to happen.

As the gal who is constantly making stuff up, in English, no one should have been surprised.

Couple such a tendency with my blunt American ear, who can’t always hear the nuances in Serbian pronunciation and … shenanigans will ensue.

You may be aware of my love of the local piaca (PEE-at-sa). The open-air farmer’s market is THE place for fresh fruits and vegetables at the best prices.

The piaca also is where I’ve always felt comfortable stumbling over my Serbian words, letting the down-to-earth vendors enjoy correcting my faulty grammar.

After three years (!) of living here and buying vegetables several times a week, I learned just how interesting a patron I must be.

Turns out, I have been mixing up the word for “corn” with a rude-ish (in Serbian) term for the male anatomy. In English, this word rhymes with “stick.” Serbian and Croatian speakers … I know you already know what I am talking about. And yes, I went there. Many times.

I truly don’t remember exactly what I was saying, but I was babbling. Running my mouth, as I was practicing! Here are some examples from years of chatting with vendors, both male and female. I’ve tried to translate using the weird syntax I have when I speak Serbian.

Hi! I need corn. [I need d---.]

But today, I need A LOT of corn.

How much does this corn cost?

My whole family loves this corn that you have here today.

How many “corns” do I need?  Well, we eat about 10 “corns” every day, especially when it’s sweet. Your corn is very sweet. My husband, my kids, my friends … all of us love this corn.

I loved your corn from yesterday. It was so good, I need more today!

The corn was so huge yesterday, I had to break it in half before we ate it!

The corn was so hard, I couldn’t break it by myself, I had to have help!

Jesus. Good thing I don’t know the word in Serbian for firm.

Then, it’s always great when I ask for help …

Is it possible for you to clean this corn, please? [Remember, I am saying, Is it possible for you to clean this d---, please?]

My husband and I don’t like when it has this cover. [To make matters worse, I used the Serbian word for "blanket." To make matters even worse, and I'm not sure this is relevant but I will mention it anyway for the sake of cross-cultural education, Did you know circumcision is not common in this country?].

I hate to clean the corn at home, so if you can help me clean this corn now, that would be great! Well, nevermind. Let’s just clean this corn together, it will be faster.

Oh goodness, I always make a mess when I clean corn. [That's correct, I said, "I always make a mess when I clean d---."]

I know, right? P.a.i.n.f.u.l.

It wasn’t until I recently returned home (after living here, let me remind you, FOR THREE YEARS) and told my husband in Serbian, “I’ve brought home huge corn today!” … that he hung his head in shame and told me of my mistake.

Good times.

So you may be wondering if I do in fact buy corn any more at the piaca, and the answer is “yes.” I fact, we are having corn for dinner. However, when I purchased said corn, I definitely pointed and asked for “this,” avoiding the mixed-up wording entirely.

*  *  *  *  *

“Corn” by mack2happy, “Broken Harvest” by Carlos Porto, and “Growing Corn” by franky242, from

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From → Expat Mommy

  1. OMG, you poor thing! I couldn't help but laugh, though. I tried to imagine someone asking in English for what you were asking for in Serbian and couldn't imagine not laughing and correcting you. It's a wonder no one didn't, but I guess you can chalk that up to the difference in our cultures. (?) It's good to laugh at ourselves, though.

  2. I just love cross-cultural malaprops. When they're inadvertently sexual, so much more fun. Thanks for sharing your cultural journey.

  3. Denise permalink

    My husband and I were in Seville Spain in 1993 when Pope John Paul II visited there. The streets were lined with thousands of people, there were signs and everyone chanting "Que maravilla, El Papa esta en Sevilla" which translates to "It's marvelous, The Father is in Seville." Well we were in the throng awaiting his passing in the Popemobile and I spotted him approaching and said loudly to my husband. "Look, La Papa". Everyone around us in hearing distance erupted into laughter. My husband hung his head and said to me "Denise, you just called the Pope "The Potato".

    I feel you :)

  4. Sandy permalink

    Thanks for the 'giggle' I needed it today! Sandy

  5. Mrs. Bo permalink

    Oh man! That is truly embarrasing! Thank you for sharing your blunder for our enjoyment!

    4 years ago when I had been here about 6 months I explained to my Mother and Father-in-law why I thought I had lost weight even though I was eating much more. I confidently told them “nema preservativa u hrani”….My husband who had been living in the states the last 8 years didn’t even catch my mistake at first, and the look on his parents’ faces was one of shock and confussion. I had told them there were no condoms in the food. From that day I will always remember “preservatives” in English is “koservans” in Serbian. Yep.

  6. Hahaha this is so funny and cringe worthy at the same time. You must blush every time you go there now!


  8. pagemanuel permalink

    LOL!!! Super hilarious!!!

  9. Hilarious! Well, at least you are trying to speak Serbian. After all, who cares about the rest? We have got to learn at all ages.

  10. susanpjames permalink

    Funny – when you write about it. Not so at the time, I guess. LOL!!!

  11. Carol Bodensteiner permalink

    Hysterical! I applaud you for so boldly practicing your Serbian. And for sharing with us.

  12. Laura … this was a great, laugh-out-loud read. It reminded me of my early days in New Zealand, when I was in a business meeting and observed to the person sitting next to me that the speaker was "covering their fanny." Turns out that word in KIWI refers to a part of the female anatomy not shared by men. My "whispered" observation brought the entire meeting to a standstill. I still blush thinking about it. It sure does help to have a sense of humor!

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