Moe’s don’t know no Spanish

It’s funny to find bad Spanish on a sign in a burrito restaurant.

’Course, this was that chain restaurant where employees are trained to holler “Welcome to Mo-o-o’es” every time the door opens. The one where you order menu items with names like “Joey Bag of Donuts.” The place is about as Mexican as a frat boy sucking down his fourth Corona.

But still. The sign was one of those bathroom notices that employees must wash their hands before returning to work. This one was designed and distributed by Moe’s central command, to keep any uncool poster designs by state health bureaucrats from disturbing the restaurant’s laid-back atmosphere. To satisfy those same bureaucrats, it had to be in Spanish as well as English. And the Spanish was pretty terrible:

Los empleados deben lavarse los manos antes de regresar a trabajar

My own Spanish is only passable, but I noticed that los manos should be las manos, an error they warn you away from in first-year Spanish. Besides that, the sentence is technically correct, but not idiomatic Spanish. If similar errors were made in an English translation, the result might be:

Employees ought to wash the hands before returning to working

Clear enough, but crude. Not that I’m the best judge of giros idiomáticos españoles, being a gringo and all. Still, Moe’s ought to have done better than this — especially on a notice that gets reproduced hundreds of times.

What really struck me, though, is that this notice is the only Spanish I’d ever encountered at Moe’s. (Borrowed words like “burrito” and “salsa” don’t count.) The chain’s controlled imagery bleaches all the Latin elements out of what they are careful never to call “Mexican” food. Recent TV advertising talks up the fictional Moe as a steak-lovin’ Anglo from cattle country. Moe’s is just the place for people who like burritos but can’t stand Mexicans.

So I wondered: Could the bad Spanish be deliberate? It seems hard to believe that the sign never got double-checked for accuracy before it was printed. Incompetence and indifference are the likeliest explanations. But one can’t rule out deliberation.

One thought on “Moe’s don’t know no Spanish

  1. a steak-lovin’ Anglo from cattle country

    Saw the commercial again: I was wrong, it’s pork he’s supposed to be crazy about.

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