Smoke ’em if you got ’em / Fúmalos si los tienes

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

AFTER READING MY SISTER DALE’S letter yesterday, I thought of a story from our long ago past, before reality had overwhelmed our lives.

One day, when Dale was not quite 15 and I was not quite 13, we were in the apartment alone. I found her sitting on the sofa smoking a cigarette. Well, she wasn’t actually smoking the cigarette, really, she was blowing into it. Sparks were flying across the room.

I was taken aback. “What are you doing?” I demanded.

“What does it look like?!? I’m smoking.”

I said, in my infinite wisdom, “Well, you’re not supposed to blow into it. You’re supposed to suck the smoke into your mouth.”

She had a very logical response. “I tried, but I don’t like it. It makes me cough.”

“Then, you shouldn’t smoke,” I announced. “You don’t look cool.”

I TOLD THE STORY several years ago in Sevilla to our friends Tere and Miguel. They spoke little to no English, so I did a fractured Spanish version (I can — and will today — do a better Spanish version). I was able to find most of the words I needed, but I got stuck on the room where the event took place.

My parents’ apartment had a formal entry, what is known as a “foyer.” My family used it as a den of sorts, with bookshelves, sofa and TV. My sister was sitting in that room on that sofa when we had our exchange. The Spanish equivalent for “foyer” (of French origin) would be entrada or vestíbulo. But that didn’t occur to me as I told the story.

I mentioned the “foyer,” pronouncing it the un-classy American way (FOY-urr). Miguel and Tere didn’t know what I meant. So I then pronounced it the French (and pretentious American) way (fo-YAY). Miguel and Tere smiled and tittered.

With further explanation, it was determined that I meant “entrada.” But, Tere said in Spanish, “You do realize that follé is the past tense of follar, don’t you?” I shrugged. No I did not. Nor did I know what follar was.

I took out my phone, opened the translator, and typed follar. Fuck! Dale would have gotten a good laugh out of that and, if we were still not quite 15 and 13, she would have slapped my face for using such language.


DESPUÉS DE LEER LA CARTA de mi hermana DALE ayer, pensé en una historia de nuestro pasado lejano, antes de que la realidad abrumara nuestras vidas.

Un día, cuando Dale no tenía 15 años y yo no tenía 13, estábamos solos en el piso. La encontré sentada en el sofá fumando. Bueno, en realidad no estaba fumando, en realidad, lo estaba soplando. Las chispas volaban por la habitación.

Fui sorprendido. “¿Qué estás haciendo?” exigí.

“¿¡¿Cómo se ve?!? ¡Estoy fumando!”

Dije, en mi infinita sabiduría: “Bueno, se supone que no debes soplar. Se supone que debes aspirar el humo en tu boca”.

Ella tuvo una respuesta muy lógica. “Lo intenté, pero no me gusta. Me hace toser”.

“Entonces, no deberías fumar”, anuncié. “No te ves guay”.

LES CONTÉ LA HISTORIA hace varios años en Sevilla a nuestros amigos Tere y Miguel. Hablaban poco o nada de inglés, así que hice una versión en español fracturada (puedo, y lo haré hoy, hacer una mejor versión en español). Pude encontrar la mayoría de las palabras que necesitaba, pero me quedé atascado en la sala donde tuvo lugar el evento.

El pido de mis padres tenía una entrada formal, lo que se conoce como “vestíbulo”. Mi familia lo usaba como una especie de estudio, con estanterías, sofá y televisión. Mi hermana estaba sentada en esa habitación en ese sofá cuando tuvimos nuestro intercambio. El equivalente en español de “foyer” (de origen francés) sería entrada. Pero eso no se me ocurrió mientras contaba la historia.

Mencioné el “foyer”, pronunciándolo al estilo americano sin clase (FOY-urr). Miguel y Tere no sabían a qué me refería. Entonces lo pronuncié al estilo francés (y pretencioso estadounidense) (fo-YAY). Miguel y Tere sonrieron y rieron.

Con más explicaciones, se determinó que me refería a “entrada”. Pero, dijo Tere en español, “Te das cuenta de que follé es el tiempo pasado de follar, ¿no es así?” Me encogí de hombros. No, no lo hice. Tampoco sabía qué era follar.

Saqué mi móvil, abrí el traductor, y escribí follar. Joder! Dale se habría reído mucho de eso y, si todavía no tuviéramos 15 ni 13, me habría abofeteado por usar ese lenguaje.

• Still not quite 15 and already a reformed smoker. 1967, Ruggles Mine, Concord, New Hampshire. Our parents were becoming rock hounds. (And I just remembered: That was my T-shirt and she never returned it!)
• Aún no tiene 15 años y ya soy fumador reformado. 1967, Mina Ruggles, Concord, New Hampshire. Nuestros padres se estaban convirtiendo en sabuesos de las rocas. (Y acabo de recordar: Esa era mi camiseta y nunca me la devolvió!)

1955. Lecturing on the dangers of smoking (or, maybe, swearing).

1955. Dar conferencias sobre los peligros de fumar (o tal vez decir palabrotas).

1964. The old apartment and its foyer.
1964. El viejo piso (y, ahora, piso viejo) y su “foyer”.


• I stood on the terrace for 15 minutes to snap this kid going down the slide into the water. Fifteen minutes and then he jumped off in the other direction, before they immediately pedaled away. Foyer!
Me quedé en la terraza durante 15 minutos, para fotografiar a este chico bajando por el tobogán al agua. Quince minutos y luego saltó en la otra dirección, antes de que se alejaran inmediatamente. ¡Foyer! (la pronunciación francesa)

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..

31 thoughts on “Smoke ’em if you got ’em / Fúmalos si los tienes”

  1. Sounds like Dale was a typical teenager experimenting with cigarettes……I remember choking a lot too!
    Since I live in a bilingual country/Canada ‘foyer’ is pronounced the pretentious way…..foy-yay. Merci beaucoup, monsieur. lol

    1. Jim,
      I coughed a bit but got over it and smoked from the age of 16 to 32. Never made sparks with my cigarettes though. When you pronounce foyer the French way, you’re not being a pretentious American.

    1. David,
      They DO look like fun. Better do it quick before their out away. I should buy an underwater action camera!

  2. Wow, you and your sister looked an awful lot alike! I’ve never understood the allure of smoking. As for foyer, I always pronounced it the way it is spelled until I heard it pronounced the pretentious way. I liked that way better. Now facade is a whole different matter. I knew what it was and how to pronounce it. I, however, didn’t know how the word was spelled. Whenever I came across the word facade in books, I read it as facaid. I was corrected by a movie character who was laughing at another movie character who pronounced it my way. Folle’ indeed.

    1. Deedles,
      I’ll find some picture that show how alike Dale and really did look. I had a friend my freshman year at university who met her and went on and on to all our other friends about how beautiful she was. She said we looked so much alike EXCEPT everything about Dale was better! Gee thanks, I thought, although I was really proud of Dale… and being the envy of all my friends for having a beautiful sister. I love those words I always KNEW when I read them until I hear them pronounced. So embarrassing sometimes. (You’ll enjoy this: When I typed the word envy, autocorrect changed it to penis envy!!!)

  3. THAT was a large apartment back in 64 AND in NYC no less!

    wonder whatever happened to your shirt?

    1. anne marie,
      It WAS a large apartment, big rooms, nice space, and great views with lots of natural light. Our current place could fit that one twice. We moved there when it was new in 1964. My mother lived there alone for 29 years after my father died … and filled every square inch of it. I know that shirt would never fit me now or I’d really miss it. Dale stole few shirts from me. One was a beautiful tight fitting knit that she picked out when we were shopping together. She wore it once and put bumps in it, which made it hers.

  4. I bet that in that second photo of Dale, she was doing that thing we did as kids to basically say shame on you. You pointed one index finger at the person and then brushed your other index finger over the top of the other towards the person you were trying to shame. Right up there with the childhood taunt of Na-nana-naa-nah.

    You also made a clear case for being very, very careful about using unknown translations whilst in other countries. Follé, indeed. 🙂

    1. Mary,
      We have so many hilarious errors in Spanish. I learned very quickly to laugh at my mistakes. It’s a great way to learn. Major faux pas are rarely repeated.

    1. Wilma,
      I did and do. But I only have one right now, a tank top. Dale got me on that kick. She taught me how to dress and said I looked good in shirts like that. I think she just wanted them for herself.

  5. That looks like a really nice apartment! Foreign languages are tricky and full of hazards when it comes to trying to adapt words from language into another. (Preservative ≠ preservatif)

    1. Steve,
      It really was a great apartment. SG and I used to imagine how we would renovate it… but then we’d want to Move it somewhere else! Ah yes, preservatives! I told Tere a donut I was eating was nothing but preservativos. And then I knew how to say condoms!!!

  6. I remember trying to smoke once. My dad was always lit, so I thought there must be something to it. I took one and went into the garden And lit up. I of course didn’t like it, tossed the cig, and the pine needles ignited almost immediately. And the fire spread quickly taking half a garden and rose bushes up in flames. I recall non-chantingly going in the house to say the garden was on fire. Of course my mother blamed my dad, for had he not been a smoker I would have never had the idea.

    Never did light another one, so I have no idea why I enjoy cigars. I enjoy one or two a year, usually a Cuban. My uncle loved cigars, maybe thats where. I also had a aunt Hattie who smoked a pipe!!!!!

    1. Mistress Maddie,
      I smoked cigarettes for the better part of 16 years. Haven’t had one since Christmas Eve 1986! Tried cigars and a pipe. I decided I wasn’t the pipe type and HATED cigars. I never had a family member like your Aunt Hattie.

  7. I have never tried smoking but even i know you don’t blow into it!

    And I imagine that people have done all kinds of things in a foyer, even folle?

    1. Bob,
      I DID folle in that foyer! I can admit that now since the Dowager Duchess will never know.

  8. LOL!!! yes lost in translation. Similar thing happen to me when I was learning Spanish. I tried to explain where the dining room was in the house and instead said Sala de dinero (money room) Teacher laughed and so did the class and the teacher said I wish I had one of those in my house.

    1. Laurent,
      I also want a sala de dinero. In Italy one year instead of telling a friend I had come to her shop by foot, I told her I changed my feet. She asked what I had changed them from and into and I had no clue what she was talking about.

  9. I was wondering how big was that Foyer that you had a sofa, TV and bookshelves ! Since that is how people came into your house.
    Love the shirt !

    1. Parsnip,
      First was the narrow entry hall and the coat closet. The foyer was quite large and had plenty of room for a big sofa, side chair, and wall unit. The apartments in the co-op were unusually spacious.

  10. When I was in Ireland and at a pub, the Irish person I was with taught me how to say “cheers” in Irish. So I did. I yelled it as I raised my pint of beer. A look of horror arose on her face. I had said vagina instead. Yikes!

    1. Mcpersonalspace54:
      That’s priceless. Did everyone raise their glasses and vagina back at you?

    1. Kirk:
      Glad Dale never got the hang of it. Too bad, in the long run, it didn’t make any difference in how long she lived. I wanted to look cool and I mastered the art… for 16 years. But I haven’t had a cigarette since Christmas Even 1986!

  11. What Jim said! LOL
    foy-A, foy-EH, foy- YAY!!!!

    One puff of a ciggy and I was cleared of that mysterious notion that smoking was the cool thing to do.
    Cough cough sputter sputter!

    1. Ron:
      I forced myself to get over the first impression and developed a need for it. Stupid kid! Dale had a health class when she was very young, less than 9 years old. She came home from school that day and told our parents they both had to stop smoking. My mother smoked perhaps a cigarette a week, my father more, but they both immediately stopped. Impressive.

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