My first year of teaching was so full of moments that one should never bring up in a job interview, and my students laughed at me so often, it turned out that they really liked me. Not so much because I was a great teacher, because they were a great group.
The one that sticks with me starts not stateside but in Mexico. I was 30ish and had gotten a grant to do intensive grammar and culture and teacher training in Puebla Mexico for a month. The grammar classes were grueling, 6 hours a day parsing when to use imperfect and preterit, when to use estar and ser, culturalisms (more fun), subjunctive and past subjunctive and having my Spanish picked apart to a point unprecedented.
The owner of the school interrupted class one day to tell us that she would be our teacher tomorrow, and that we would be having a test. And then she put her fingers up on either side of her head and she said “Soy la pinga!”, which one could gather from context that she was saying that she was the devil or bull. Yawn. I guess she was the toughest one.
So fast forward a year or more later, I was in class teaching my ESL kids in Portland Oregon. They were going to have a big test the next day, and I wanted them to STUDY, which was not natural to many of them. So I lifted my fingers up to either side of my head and I said “Soy la Pinga!!!”
I knew pretty much immediately by the shocked expressions on the faces of my Spanish speakers that something had gone very wrong. These kids were from Guatemala and Cuba, not Mexico. And then, they covered their mouths and tried not to die laughing of my obvious ignorance about this word.
“Okay, I just said ‘I am the devil, that’s all!”
“That’s not what it means…!”
“YES! It is what it means!”
“No, it means something else, something on a boy…”
“OOOOOOH no it does not! It means devil!”
Hilarity ensued as these kids ridicule me…. I laughed.
And that’s why it’s important to have a grasp on the meanings of swear words.
And I never declared that I was a pinga again.