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Lost in Translation: Tourist’s Innocent Pomegranate Order Sparks Grenade Alert!

By Albulena Murturi


5 December 2023

grenade pomegranate

©️ Racool_studio _ mdjaff _ Freepik

In a startling incident outside a quaint Lisbon restaurant, a 36-year-old tourist inadvertently set off a bomb scare. This turned a routine order for fruit juice into a dramatic encounter with law enforcement. The tourist, a Russian speaker from Azerbaijan, found himself in the midst of chaos when confusion between Portuguese words led to a misinterpreted note and a subsequent call to the police.

grenade pomegranate
Miquel Rosselló Calafell / Pexels

Grenade and Pomegranate Sound Quite Similar

The unsuspecting incident unfolded in the Cais do Sodré district, where the tourist attempted to order a simple fruit juice. Armed with a language translation app, he sought to convey the word for “pomegranate” to the Portuguese-speaking staff. However, the translation app betrayed him. It substituted “grenade” for “pomegranate,” setting the stage for a series of events that would escalate quickly.

As reported by The Telegraph, the tourist had written a note to place his drink order. He unknowingly used the wrong translation provided by the app. The note, intended to be a harmless request, was read by the waiter as a potential bomb threat. It prompted an immediate call to the police.

A video, uploaded to the website of the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha, captures the unfolding drama. The tourist, unsuspecting of the chaos his innocent order would cause, is seen being handcuffed and arrested outside the restaurant shortly after the incident. In the footage, he complies with police orders to lie face down on the ground as five officers approach. They swiftly immobilized and handcuffed him.

This unexpected turn of events didn’t just end with the arrest. The tourist was then taken to a nearby police station for further interrogation. A thorough inspection of both his person and hotel room took place. Fortunately for him, the investigation revealed the absence of any weapons. It highlighted the unintentional nature of the alarm triggered by a linguistic misunderstanding.

grenade pomegranate
©️ Medan / X

Lost in Translation

The heart of the matter lies in the linguistic nuances between Russian and Portuguese. While the Russian language employs the same word for both “pomegranate” and “grenade,” Portuguese distinguishes them as ‘romã’ for pomegranate and ‘granada’ for grenade. The translation app, failing to capture this critical difference, became the catalyst for a series of events that temporarily disrupted the tourist’s visit to Lisbon.

This incident brings to the forefront the delicate interplay between technology, language barriers, and security measures. In an era where translation apps are ubiquitous and play a crucial role in cross-cultural communication, incidents like these serve as a stark reminder of the potential pitfalls and unintended consequences that may arise when relying on technology in sensitive situations.

Security Concerns Continue to Be an Issue

Furthermore, the incident occurred against the backdrop of heightened security concerns in Portugal. With the country recently elevating its official terrorist threat level from moderate to significant, authorities remain on high alert. This incident, though stemming from a simple misunderstanding, highlights the need for vigilance and a nuanced approach to security, even in seemingly routine interactions. As the world navigates the complexities of global communication, the story of a misplaced word serves as a cautionary tale for travelers and authorities alike.

You might also want to read: The Trevi Fountain Incident – This Tourist Took It Too Far

Albulena Murturi

An enthusiastic learner rediscovering the joy of writing.