Sausages, no preservatives

An extremely busy photo that my Peruvian colleague Ernesto Cuba took on 5/24 inside the St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto. The shop in the photo is offering sausages, no preservatives — innocent enough, but EC immediately translated the sign into Spanish, got salchichas, no preservativos, and protested against the content of the slangy and figurative salchicha sin preservativo ‘penis without a condom’ (vs. the literal salchicha sin preservativo ‘sausage without a preservative’)

It was as if the sign had said, in English sausages, no prophylactics, which would instantly have allowed the English slang sausage ‘penis’ to surface. As it happens, the Spanish word for ‘preservative’ has been pressed into service as a rather technical-sounding euphemism referring to a life-preserving condom; that makes sense, but the parallel development just hasn’t happened in English, where the corresponding technical-sounding euphemism is prophylactic ‘preventive’, referring to a disease-preventing condom.

Creative vs. conventional metaphors. Different language varieties find their euphemisms in different places. And different language varieties find their slang words for things in different places, too. Pretty much any Wurst, any salchicha — including both sausages and hot dogs — will do as a phallic symbol, that comes with the physical characteristics of Würste — but only a few words for a Wurst have gotten  conventionalized as slang words for ‘penis’. With enough context, and good will on the part of your audience, you could probably get away with using any number of these words as fresh, creative metaphors:

Joe unzipped his fly and hauled out his stiff …

hot dog / frankfurter/frank / footlong / redhot / salchicha / bratwurst / mortadella …

But there are a few metaphors that have become conventionalized as penis slang: wiener and weenie / wienie; more colorful sausage and salami (both in GDoS); and for some speakers, chorizo (borrowed from Spanish, where it’s vulgar slang, dirtier than the more neutral salchicha; and pronounced in English with a [z] rather than a Spanish [s]).

Spanish has conventionalized the generic Wurst word salchicha (usable for both sausages and hot dogs) and the more specific term chorizo (for a specific type of sausage) as penis slang.

Now I start over, with EC’s Facebook posting. Hear this in his words, and commenter Jara Isa’s.

Ernesto Cuba’s protest.

(#1) The extremely busy photo; yes, I will get to the statue (over 2 ft tall!) of a (French) chef with a skillet

salchicha sin preservativo ? !

That is, roughly, ‘dick without a rubber — no way!’ (Note the way the punctuation is used to convey an interrobang — ‘a non-standard punctuation mark indicating a question expressed in an exclamatory manner’ (NOAD).)

Then this comment from Jara Isa, deploying emoji for expressive effect (and the balloon emoji to refer to a condom):

Ñooo sin 🎈no hay fiesta 😁

(The English slogan is No Rubber No Party. The Spanish, with the expressive stuff ironed out, is something like No — Sin Salchicha No Hay Fiesta)

Also deploying  the spelling ooo to indicate a drawn-out emphatic negative (of denial) and an initial [ñ] in this negator, via the spelling Ñooo. EC tells me that ño is a super-informal, playful variant of no —  like baby-talk. (He adds that he doesn’t think it’s very popular in his native Peru — but then there’s an enormous amount of variation in the Hispanophone world.)

(EC is visiting Toronto for a conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Names, at York University, but has time to do touristic things and to send dozens of super-brief bulletins to friends on FB about his enthusiastic tourism. Here I’m trying to unpack some of what EC and JI are saying and how they say it, for a wider audience.)

The skillet-wielding chef in #1. I asked EC about this guy, and he just told me such figurines or statues are common. News to me, but he was right; there’s a huge genre of (French) chef figures, in porcelain, ceramic, resin, fiberglass, metal, and wood, variously attired, of many sizes, doing many things.

By great good fortune (and some tedious googling), I was able to discover exactly which of these figures accompanies the no-preservative sausages in St. Lawrence Market: The Interior Gallery‘s chef statue with skillet, 32.5″ tall ($250):

(#2) Fat of face and belly, with red neckerchief and sash, oversized chef’s toque, and short pants, he’s a figure of fun

Then there’s the gallery’s ad puffery on behalf of its creation:

Brilliantly hand crafted from fiberglass and resin mold and hand painted to the last detail. This gorgeous beauty is part of a collection of hand crafted statue replicas. It is sure to be a perfect piece to add to any collection. This antique reproduction statue is used in many establishments and occasions. It is used as part of home decor, restaurant decor, bar decor, club decor, retails store decor, special events decoration, home decor, media room decor, game room decor, hotel decor, commercial businesses decor and as a wonderful gift idea. It is sure to attract crowd’s attention and is a wonderful conversation piece.

Two little bits of background.

sausage ‘penis’. In my 5/27 posting “Sausage juice” (‘semen, cum’), there’s a section on this slang use of sausage, which is paralleled by the slang use of Spanish salchicha.

St. Lawrence Market in downtown Toronto.

(#3) From the Google Map information: “Spacious market with 100+ vendors, bakers, butchers & artisans, with produce & antiques on weekends.”


2 Responses to “Sausages, no preservatives”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Hana Filip on Facebook:

    “It was as if the sign had said, in English sausages, no prophylactics, …” yup, the same joke/misunderstanding would work in Czech, as I found out during one of my mom’s visit with me in the USA. At breakfast, I pointed at a jar of jam I got from Trader Joe’s, and said to mom in Czech: “This is really good jam, maminko, it has no preservatives [prezervativy in Czech]”. She burst out laughing, and I had no clue why. My Czech vocabulary lacked prezervativy, given my language history and the requisite experiences in Czechoslovakia, Germany and the USA. Even without sausages, my normally quite proper maminka was ROFL-ing.

  2. Chris Ambidge Says:

    I ran into a similar situation in about 1985. The Loblaws supermarket chain had just brought out their house-brand foods, all with bright yellow labels, Helvetica bold all-lower-case labels. At a pot-luck picnic, someone brought a bottle of dill pickles (all-natural-no-preservatives). In Canada, all labels have to be English/French bilingual. This new product rendered
    Pickles / no preservatives
    cornichons / sans preservatifs

    Now most of us, with our high-school French, saw nothing amiss. David(*)-François, who made his living as a translator, laughed so hard I thought he was going to wet himself. When he recovered, he pointed out that this meant, in idiomatic Québecois French, “pickles without condoms”.

    Tho original translator probably had, like the rest of us, high-school French. The labels now (2023) read
    cornichons / aucun agents de conservation [spelling not guaranteed]

    (*) pronounced like the French revolutionary-era painter. . David-François was actually very Anglo David Francis Dinning, but had gone completely français himself.

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