Tinto, a word with two meanings in South America

This is a funny story that my uncle Marcelo told me not too long ago. We were having a conversation about our traveling adventures and different types of drinking cultures around the world. He was a business man in his good old times, hence he used to travel a lot for rather short periods of time. One day he was in Ecuador drinking his morning black coffee called in good ecuadorian spanish “tinto”, the next day he was in Argentina in one of the fanciest hotels in the country getting ready to start his day. It is 7 am in the morning and he goes to the hotel restaurant, he asked for a “tinto”,, a good-looking tall waiter finds himself in doubt and asked again -a “tinto” you said?. My uncle confirms the order, not even suspecting of his big language mistake. -Yes, a tinto I said.- He replied in an arrogant tone, since he thought the waiter was deaf or stupid. The waiter looks at him wondering but afraid of asking again, he goes to the kitchen and brings what in Argentina they call “tinto”: a big bottle of their best Red Wine with a glass. He places it over my uncle’s table and said, -here it goes Sir, a tinto. My uncle with wide open eyes realized then this was not what he ordered but embarrassed to make himself  looking like a bigger stupid than he thought the waiter was, he said nothing but thanks and proceeds to drink!  So he starts to drink Red Wine at 7 am before an important meeting that day.

It turns that in South America the word “tinto” have different meanings depending on the country you are asking one for. Tinto or tintico for Colombians and Ecuadorians means “black coffee” or “espresso type”, on the other hand in Argentina and probably in Chile “tinto” means nothing else than Red Wine. So watch out next time and use the universal word “Café” or “coffee” if you don’t want to end up drunk before the most important business meeting of your life!

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