A Magical Land Where Lemons Are Green And Limes Are Lemons

I’ve been learning idioms here in Colombia to seemlessly integrate myself with the locals. The challenge is using them properly in live conversation, and I’m happy to say that I did just that with one I’ve been dying to use for a while.

The English idiom “I need to sleep on it” translates to “Tengo que consultarlo con la almohada.” If you translate that back to English it means, “I have to consult with the pillow.” It’s a great idiom.

I went to a street market to buy some lemons, which in Colombia are green like limes and share the same name. To clarify: both lemons and limes in Colombia are green, and they are both called lemons, but different types of lemons. Lemons are called limon and limes are called limon tahiti, suggesting that they are both members of the same family. If you ask a vendor for a lima, what most gringos think of as the Spanish word for lime, you won’t be understood.

American lemons are larger than limes, but in Colombia the lemons are smaller and look almost exactly like American limes.

Yet there’s more…

Oranges in Colombia are green, like American limes. Again, the oranges are green. They’re still called naranja, which is Spanish for orange. What really fucks with your head is cutting open a Colombian lemon or orange to see bright yellow or orange pulp inside a green shell.

Back to the story. At the market the vendor knew I was gringo and quoted me $0.75 for two green lemons, an outrageous sum. In my plain clothing I don’t understand how he pegged me for a very wealthy man.

I got him down to $0.50, then said, “Tengo que consultarlo con la almohada” and walked away. Score! The look on his face said, “Who the fuck is this interesting gringo?”

Down the street I found a place that sold me four lemons for $0.20. This short series of events worked out really great for me.

Or so I thought, because when I went home I actually bought limes. Now if I come across a recipe that calls for a lemon or lime, I look for another recipe.