It’s Only a Number / Es Solo un Numero

La versión español está después de la versión inglés.

SAN GERALDO BOUGHT fifteen bags of blueberries. No, it’s not a tongue twister. Nor is this the start of an arithmetic problem. San Geraldo went to the supermarket to buy fifteen bags of blueberries, among other things. He thought and thought about how to say fifteen in Spanish. He has a really difficult time remembering his numbers.

He wanted to tell the cashier there were fifteen bags of blueberries, so she wouldn’t have to count them all. So, before reaching the cashier, he reviewed the numbers 11 to 15 in his head for a few minutes, “Once, doce, trece, catorce…” And then it was his turn. Only he didn’t say fifteen (quince), he said “ten and five (diez y cinco),” and maybe not clearly enough. The casher asked, “veinticinco?” (twenty-five?) and SG said, “Yes” — because that’s what he says whether or not he understands the question.

He paid and took the elevator down to the car. He wasn’t convinced he had gotten things quite right and the bill was much higher than he had expected, so he checked the receipt and saw the cashier had charged him for twenty-five bags. Frozen blueberries are not cheap. Even San Geraldo couldn’t ignore the error. He took the elevator back up to the supermarket, still unable to remember how to say fifteen.

When he reached the cashier, he told her he had 15 bags of blueberries (yes, he once again said diez y cinco — ten and five). The cashier stared blankly. SG showed her the palm of his hand (I don’t know why) on which he drew with a finger the numbers 1 and 5, while saying aloud “one, cinco” (yes, he said one number in English and the other in Spanish). Still nothing.

Finally, a very kind man in line said, “quince,” and SG exclaimed, “Sí!” (really meaning it this time). He then said in Spanish (exact translation here): “The numbers is bad!” As usual, SG left them laughing.

He tried to tell me the story when he got home. But he couldn’t remember how to say fifteen.


SAN GERALDO COMPRÓ 15 bolsas de arándanos. No, este no es el comienzo de un problema aritmético. San Geraldo fue al supermercado a comprar 15 bolsas de arándanos, entre otras cosas. Pensó y pensó en cómo decir 15 en español. Le cuesta mucho recordar sus números.

Quería decirle a la cajera que había 15 bolsas de arándanos, para que no tuviera que contarlas todas. Entonces, antes de llegar al cajero, revisó los números del 11 al 15 en su cabeza por unos “Once, doce, trece, catorce …” Y luego fue su turno. Solo que no dijo 15, dijo “diez y cinco”, y tal vez no lo suficientemente claro. El cajero preguntó: “¿veinticinco?” y SG dijo “Sí” — porque eso es lo que dice si entiende o no la pregunta.

Pagó y tomó el ascensor hasta el auto. No estaba convencido de haber hecho las cosas bien y la factura era mucho más alta de lo que esperaba, así que revisó el recibo y vio que el cajero le había cobrado por 25 bolsas. Los arándanos congelados no son baratos. Incluso San Geraldo no pudo ignorar el error. Tomó el ascensor de vuelta a la tienda, aún incapaz de recordar cómo decir 15.

Cuando llegó al cajero, le dijo que tenía 15 bolsas de arándanos (sí, una vez más dijo diez y cinco). El cajero lo miró sin comprender. SG le mostró la palma de su mano (no sé por qué) en la que dibujó con un dedo los números 1 y 5, mientras decía en voz alta “one, cinco” (sí, dijo un número en inglés y el otro en español).

Finalmente, un hombre muy amable en la fila dijo “quince” y SG exclamó: “¡Sí!” (Realmente lo significa esta vez). Luego dijo en español: “¡Los números es malo!” Como de costumbre, SG los dejó riéndose.

Intentó contarme la historia cuando llegó a casa. Pero no podía recordar cómo decir 15 en español.

And speaking of numbers and frozen things: SG’s sister Linda in South Dakota sent us this photo from the dashboard of their pick-up truck.
Minus 21F (that’s Minus 29C)!

Y hablando de números y cosas congeladas: Linda, la hermana de SG en Dakota del Sur, nos envió esta foto desde el tablero de su camioneta.
¡Menos 21F (eso es Menos 29C)!

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

38 thoughts on “It’s Only a Number / Es Solo un Numero”

    1. Adam:
      As if you’d need a reminder. And that isn’t even one of their colder winter days!

  1. Blueberries are our all time staple here, too!
    Pricey indeed and even more so with the weather events destroying harvests over the passed few years. However, 15 bags wouldn’t even fit into our freezer. We bought 6 boxes one year and the power went out for 8 days . They all (sad face) ended up in the compost.
    Now back to Gerry’s numbering issue ~ Sorry but I can’t stop laughing ~ Please don’t tell him but do give him a hug!

    1. Ron:
      We love blueberries. We get them fresh when they’re available but Jerry has a huge bowlful with his breakfast every morning, so frozen are much more practical (and cost-effective). I used to only like them IN things, but now I like them fresh, too. Quite often, our dessert after dinner will be a bowl of blueberries and some other fruit (apples, peaches, oranges). SO good. We both laughed (sympathetically, of course) at your sad 6 boxes of blueberries story. That would be something we’d do!

    1. David:
      And SG has the gift of being able to laugh at himself. He’s got a mental block when it comes to numbers.

  2. Love our blueberries here! Now THAT was one way to remember Spanish for 15……now to make it stick!! lol
    Those middle provinces/states must be unreal this time of year. And I was complaining the other day about a measly -15C ! Count your blessings guys…..and enjoy the blueberries.

    1. Jim:
      Linda will regularly tell us there’s a 100-degree difference (Fahrenheit) between us and them. The day they had Minus 21F (Minus 29C), we had 73F (23C)! 94 degrees warmer!!! I think Jerry DOES now remember quince!

  3. so what is SG going to do with the blueberries? muffins, waffles, cakes, what?

    currently 0C or 32F here at 8a sunday morning.

    1. anne marie:
      We were in the mid 60s (F) today. Chilly! Ooh, blueberry muffins. I should make some with protein powder. Jerry has blueberries with his breakfast every morning (plus, usually, peaches, ham, cottage cheese, and Clementines). We also often have blueberries with another fruit for dessert after dinner. But, like I said, oooh, blueberry muffins. My favortie!

    1. Oh, Bob:
      I had to hear the story three times as he shared it with friends before I understand what the hell he was doing with his hand. I thought maybe I was supposed to be counting fingers. And i can’t wait for Monday’s blog post. There’s actually more! He never lets me down.

  4. Oh dear lord! SG has gots to meet Carlos! The stories you and Bob could write! That is a lot of blueberries. I only like the things in muffins, preferably the lemon kind. There supposed to be good for my diabetes and stuff, but not while in a muffin 🙂 Give the big guy hugs from me! I would’ve just crawled out of the store in mortification (no balls at all)!

    1. Deedles:
      It’s hilarious how much Bob, Carlos, SG, and I have in common. I used to only like (love) blueberries in muffins, but I’ve grown to love them over the years after learning how healthy they are. SG has a gift for laughing at himself. It’s harder for me. I have learned so much from him in that way. (Fortunately, I haven’t been learning my Spanish from him.)

      1. I totally blanked out on the Spanish for fifteen. I thought, what does a quince (the fruit) have to do with blueberry countage. Yes, I make up words.

      2. Deedles:
        I’m sure many people are reading that as quince, like the fruit. SG pronounces it correctly… when he remembers it. Anyway, if you make up words, you and SG would really enjoy each other’s company. I think he gets tired of me saying, “Jerry, that’s not a word.”

  5. You had best get Geraldo to a beginner Spanish class, and he should be grateful not to have to learn Greek and a whole new alphabet. The language might come in handy for something more critical that blueberries.
    We buy a big bag of blueberries at Costco occasionally but personally I prefer the flavor of strawberries and raspberries or all mixed together. It’s a balmy 40 degrees F here this morning and should make 55 by noon, 65 in the direct sun.

    1. Frank:
      I don’t “get” Geraldo anywhere he doesn’t want to go. But, believe it or not, he’s way beyond beginner; he just has a mental block when it comes to numbers. Incredibly, he does know Russian and the Cyrillic alphabet (although he’s been trying since we moved here to put it out of his mind because it was really muddling his Spanish practice). 40F feels like the Tundra to me after all these years. 55F I might complain. 65F is approaching sanity.

  6. Ohhhh, my goodness, oohhhhhhhh my goodness…. what a great chuckle this brought me this morning– ha! Loved it. Especially the one y cinco. Chuckling again! Diez y cinco is commonly found on my student papers in Spanish-1 (actually, that improved, when I started beginning the year with a little project that included learning how to say their age in Spanish, which isolated those numbers from 14-16… but, too late for that with SG !).

    I have two questions: What does the mirtilos part of the name of this berry, add to the description? I checked, and see that arándanos are blueberries, but they give bilberry, whortleberry as the translation of mirtilos. In Parisian French (as opposed to Quebecois French), myrtilles is the word for blueberries, so … now I’m all confused 🙂

    My second question is the same as anne marie in Philly asked: ¿¿Qué va a hacer SG con todos estos arándanos??

    1. Judy:
      Although SG regularly mixes up seisenta and seitenta, he does have those down pat. His biggest challenge is remembering that the teens change in structure AFTER 15 and not WITH 15. I think he may even have quince down pat now. Unfortunately, in telling the story, he started to say vieinte cinco instead of veinte cinco! Mirtilo is blueberry in Portuguese; it’s very common to find packaging here in Spanish and Portuguese. (Interesting that the word is most similar to Parisian French.) SG has blueberries with breakfast every morning (with other fruit, cottage cheese — which he can only find in one supermarket here, and ham). We also often have it as dessert with another fruit. SO healthy. (Before our ice cream, tiramisu, and everything else!)

  7. Man, you guys really love frozen blueberries! I bet SG won’t forget how to say 15 in Spanish now! And gawd bless South Dakota and its good bone-chilling prairie temperatures!

    1. Debra:
      You’re right. I think he does actually remember quince now! Although I have family in South Dakota I love, I will not ask gawd to bless it and its narrow-minded, homophobic, hate-filled politics. Oh, OK, gawd bless the good, humane minority in South Dakota!

  8. Dear God. I’m glad I’m not in South Dakota.

    Dave buys blueberries in insane quantities too, but he buys FRESH ones, which means I always feel like I’m scrambling to eat them before they go bad. (They never go bad, so somehow it all works out.)

    So funny about the numbers. I wouldn’t have known how to say 15 in Spanish either! (And I took Spanish in college!)

    1. Steve:
      I’m always glad I’m not in South Dakota… except for the exceptional family I miss. When fresh blueberries are actually available here, they come in very small containers and that doesn’t meet SG’s needs. Poor SG and the numbers. I screw up numbers, too, but my problems begin over 1,000 (usually).

    1. Elin,
      Not when it goes into Minus numbers.
      The formula is: (0°C × 9/5) + 32 = 32°F
      Or you can just go online for an automatic calculator.

  9. That’s a LOT of blueberries. I can remember numbers and a lot of vocabulary in Spanish, but it’s those pesky verbs and their motherf*cking conjugations that trip me up! You probably remember this story but I once told a nice Colombian friend that Gregg and I *eat* our dogs! I meant to say “walk”. Hahahah!

    1. Jennifer,
      Once, instead of telling an Italian friend “I came by foot to visit” I told her I changed my feet! But both our stories are more tame than saying cock soup instead of chicken soup. And I regularly confuse shit (mierda) with scared (miedo).

  10. I see they are having a heat wave in SD! It got down to -35c here on Saturday and wildly up to +2c today. But don’t worry there is no climate change.

    That is too funny. I seem to recall, though I might be confused, that SG does the NYTimes Crossword???? If so he should have no trouble with 20/26 across. I did the same thing when we were living in Italy but it was about my age. I was getting my bus pass and want to tell them that I was sixty-two “Sessantadue” but instead said “Settantadue” – 72. The lady was kind enough to suggest perhaps I was a little younger than that. I like to think she and her husband were laughing with me not at me but……

    1. Willym:
      So many places where the residents say, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.” Nice that the bus lady knew you weren’t settantadue!

  11. My first thought was, “pray tell, what will he do with all those blueberries?” Then I read through the comments. Makes perfect sense. I may go out for some myself. I’m slowly getting caught up with blog reading after my whirlwind trip during which the only internet access I had was during morning coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts.

    1. Walt the Fourth:
      Oh, I remember those trips to NYC before we got internet (and a computer) for my mother. Daily trips to Starbucks just for WiFi. Her Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t have any at the time! Glad you’re back. Hope all is well at home. So sorry for the reasons for your trip.

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