I once explained to my former assistant that pronunciation often doesn’t matter in English, but sometimes it really makes a difference. For example, it doesn’t matter if someone asks me, “Howah yoo?” or calls me Seestah Jen, but it does make a difference when he calls his exams ‘testes’.
On Saturday I was browsing the cakes at Clube Nautico and asked what a particular brownish tart-looking thing was. The server told me the name in Portuguese. I said (in Portuguese), “Yes, but what is it? What’s inside?” He said (in English), “Penis.” “Excuse me?!” I said. He repeated it very clearly in English, at which point my two English friends and I were giggling a little bit. Then he said, “Amendoim” (peanuts in Portuguese). “Aha,” I said, wondering what the Portuguese for ‘penis’ is so that I could correct him. But I’ve never needed to know that word. Realizing I couldn’t tell him what he was actually saying to us and why we were laughing, and realizing I didn’t really want to describe it to him, I simply leaned forward and said, “Pea-nuTS.” He repeated, “Penis. Chocolate penis.”
As tempting as it may have been, I did not order a slice.