Spanish changes between borders. This is especially true in the Dominican Republic where the word coger can mean to take, to catch, to get, to grasp an idea, to pick up and to hold on.
“Take the route 29 B bus.” “Get the key from the director.” “Hold the rope.” “I didn’t get her point.”
I previously wrote about Dr. John who visited my village with his daughter before he and his team provided free ear, nose and throat surgeries for 164 Dominican children. Although he has not studied Spanish, he has picked up a few phrases during his two trips.
Of course I want him to be cool in Spanish too so I naturally teach him: Cógelo suave.
This means take it easy in the Dominican Republic. I however failed to remember that other countries default to another meaning for this word.
Dr. John returns to the land of the free and with a smirk says, “Cógelo suave” to a bilingual nurse at the hospital.
As I read his email, it hits me: He just told her to “F*** it gently.”
Whoops! And so ends my career as a medical translator. I hope that no one calls HR.
Note: Dr. John is one of the coolest human beings ever. I publicly apologize for this oversight and feel really bad… thank you for having a sense of humor!