When I did a Google Image search to find something to illustrate “alas” yesterday, a bunch of wings came up and it took me a couple beats to figure out why. My Google is set to search English, Spanish, French and Catalan sites and then list things based on which language gets the most hits. The wings threw me for a loop until I remembered a great anecdote that’s actually my mother’s, but which I’m going to repeat here.
One day, she was flipping through the Yellow Pages looking for a number and came across an ad for House of Pies and puzzled over it for several moments. “Why would there be a store devoted to feet?” she wondered. “Who are the clients of a foot store?” She soon came to the realization that the establishment specialized in the classic American dessert pies, and not the Spanish for feet, pies [pee-es].
So, yes: House of Pies, meet alas, which is Spanish for wings. It just goes to show that multilingualism ain’t easy.