A Request For This Fruit Caused A Bomb Scare In Portugal

Apparently the word "pomegranate" gets lost in translation.

Talk about the hazards of miscommunication. The Telegraph reports that a tourist from Azerbaijan got in a whole lot of hot water when he stepped into a restaurant in downtown Lisbon hoping to order some fruit juice to drink. But his request alarmed the server so much that the police became involved, and the entire incident prompted a terror alert.


The Azerbaijani tourist, an Israeli citizen who speaks Russian, had used a translation app to place his order for a pomegranate drink. The one-in-a-million problem is that the Russian term for "pomegranate" is also the one used for "grenade." Portuguese has separate words for these two things, so the translation app evidently opted for the wrong term; when the tourist displayed the screen to the restaurant employee to communicate what he wanted, the server was unsettled, to say the least.

The server cleared out the restaurant and contacted police, who arrived on scene and drew their weapons. After detaining the tourist and sweeping the restaurant, they found no evidence of explosives (obviously). An inspection of the traveler's hotel room didn't turn anything up, nor was he documented in any anti-terrorism databases, so they eventually let him go.


Russian isn't the only language that overlaps the terms "pomegranate" and "grenade"—this crossover also exists in Hebrew, French, German, Spanish, and a ton of other languages, because the weapon was originally named for its resemblance to the fruit. Truth be told, I always thought grenades looked more like pineapples, but the weapon was named before the people who invented it likely ever would have seen a pineapple.

Portuguese security authorities recently raised the country's official terrorism threat from moderate to significant due to the ongoing warfare between Israel and Hamas, so a misunderstanding over fruit and explosives makes a little more sense in this context. After all this, I'm sincerely hoping the tourist eventually got the beverage he was looking for. But maybe he's lost his taste for pomegranate juice by now.