A few years ago I was tucked into my hotel room after spending a delightful day in two schools--Cumberland Christian Academy in Austell and Whitefield Academy in Vinings, Georgia. I had reserved the evening for last minute polishing of The Elevator, which was due in less than twenty-four hours.
I had sent my manuscript to my friend Michael, who not only checked my elevator accuracy, but proved himself to be an excellent editor. One of his queries puzzled me: "Does te quiero mean I love you or I want you--an important distinction if one's Mexican character is speaking to her mother."
So I left my hotel room (in my stocking feet) and padded down to housekeeping, where I could hear several women speaking Spanish. I walked into the room and announced that I was working on a book, and asked what I thought was a polite and unassuming question: "Habla espanol?"
Two of the less-startled maids nodded.
I smiled. "If you want to say I love you, mama, es te quiero Mama or te llamo Mama o que?"
They gave me blank looks, but a couple of other ladies saw their predicament and came to their aid. About that time I realized I should have asked, "Habla Engles?"
When the other ladies approached, I mentioned my book. One of them said, "El libro?"
I jumped on this sign of progress and said, "Si, es para mi libro. Es te quiero Mama or te llamo Mama? Como dice que?"
I, of course, had no idea if I was saying the right thing, having spoken very little Spanish since the tenth grade.
The women looked at each other, then one of them gave me a stock answer and told me to go to the office.
I was halfway there--still in my stocking feet--when I realized that the folks at the Wingate front desk would have no idea how to help me.
So I hurried to my room, grabbed my laptop, and then ran into two of the housekeepers in the hallway. I pointed to the computer. "Este es mi libro. Isabel dice que Adios, Mama. Te quiero, mama, vaya con Dios."
I looked at the bewildered women, hoping that words on the screen would be more effective that my babble. "Es bueno?"
Fortunately, they looked at the computer, then nodded. And after returning to my room, I realized I had been confusing "te amo" (I love you ) with "te llamo" (I name you ).
Still later, at dinner, I realized what those poor women must have seen: a mad redhead in socks running around saying, Book, I want you mama, I name you Mama, I love you mama?
I can only hope my readers appreciate the lengths to which I'm willing to go to get the details right.
A trailer for Angela Hunt's May release The Art of Insincerity. buy it HERE
Angela's Web Site