Tuesday, July 8, 2008


[what's brewing today: expresso-ing it oh so wrongly]

It’s not very often that I am privy to a language mix-up that my husband is not, nor is it common for him to be the one making the mistake while I look on with a smile. I’ve asked someone to water the pasta, instead of the grass; I’ve asked someone if they’re stir-fried instead of single; I’ve asked for fried bones instead of fried eggs – the list goes on. But this time, it was perfectly-fluent Jason that didn’t realize why he was getting some strange looks from his audience. It was great.

We had received a donation of wonderfully scented lotions and bath gels for the girls at the children’s home. They had never heard of bath gel before and weren’t entirely sure what we meant when we said it was like a liquid bar of soap, so Jason was giving them a play-by-play of how to use it. We had previously given each girl a shower poof (“shower poof” being the technical term we use to describe those ball-shaped, mesh sponges you use in the shower – does anyone really know what those are called?), which is what Jason was referring to when he gave the following explanation:

"You take your poof, put a little bit of this gel on it,
and rub it all over your body just as if it were soap."

Now, I don’t know how I would have translated poof either so I don’t fault him for simply saying “poof” in the explanation. But as I observed the girls’ faces while Jason demonstrated this process with his invisible poof and shower gel, I knew that we had hit a language problem.

“Poof” is the word that is used for “poop” here, which has always struck me as funny anyhow. But even funnier was this – watching Jason perform the charade of putting gel on his poop and rubbing it all over his body in the shower as the girls looked on with disgust! I made eye contact with one of the older girls and we both burst out laughing, and then it spread to the other girls in the room. I was finally able to stop laughing long enough to say, “You’re saying poop!”

It only took a moment to clarify the whole situation, but our laughter did not end once the explanation had been made. His point was now clear, but the unintended point was the one we all preferred to latch on to. Oh, it’s so good to laugh, isn’t it?!


CA RN to Honduras Missionary said...

As long as you can laugh at yourself. That's what's important. I asked a taxi driver to stop at the house with two feet instead of two floors. I've asked for "dad" with my meal instead of "potatoes", and yes, the list goes on for me as well. Ah well - laugh and everyone feels better.

Ellie said...

It reminded me of a poor French girl at my Bible school. She really tried with the little English she knew, but the best was one day at breakfast. She got up from the table a little early, excused herself, and with exaggerated hand motions, said, "I need to go - how do you say - go douche! A few of the boys at the table turned a few shades darker red and choked.

The poor girl then asked, "What did I say wrong?" No one was willing to explain to her right then that the French word for shower does not translate the same into English!

Coffeegirl said...

Bless her heart - that is so funny! Close just doesn't cut it many times in language learning!

Amy said...

We never know what to call that thing either. my husband calls it a "sproofy"

Diana said...

Somebody needs to write a book of all the language mistakes we have made! We could read it and laugh when are depressed or too embarrassed to laugh at ourselves. My big one was in a heated discussion about politics(I know what was I thinking?) Anyway I said "It's not Bush want a blonde!" instead of "It's not that Bush wants a war." (guera instead of guerra) Needless to say nobody present for that discussion takes my political views seriously.
My hubby is mexican and he did a reverse one the other day. He asked my daughter to please make some sticky butts for dessert. Of course he meant sticky buns! I better stop or I will write that book again.

cindyb said...

I love to read something that makes me LOL! I passed this story on to my co-workers and husband. It is sooooooooooooo good to laugh!

Susanne said...

English is not my husband's mother tongue, either. Imagine my surprise one day when he returned from a meeting with the pastor and elders of our home church with an odd question. "What does 'girly movie' mean?"

What? Why do you want to know?

"Well, the elders asked how you were, and I said you were relaxing at home watching a girly movie, and they gave me some really strange looks."

Oh, no! Not girly movie! You meant a "chick flick"!

"Yeah, that is it. What is the difference?"

umm... enough to make me turn red when I see the elders next!

Coffeegirl said...

These are great stories! And I sympathize with your husband, Susanne, when he said, "Yeah, that's it. What's the difference?" Two things that appear to be equal in meaning often are not - it's so unjust!

Anonymous said...

hey there... a friend recommended your blog and i'm happy she did! :) looking forward to learning arabic in lebanon in the fall and making some crazy mistakes as well. thanks for sharing a bit of your life! :)

(and i think it is called a "loofa")

Anonymous said...

OH, yes, I understand. I understand very well. I experienced that in learning Spanish. I asked for 5 pounds of 'sand' instead of flour. Now it continues as I learn another language in a new posting.

But I have learned that those people who can make be laugh about good things are my friends.

NAfrica News said...

I know what you mean, blunders can be interesting. For me I never know when I'm talking about my brother if I'm calling him my brother or my fish.

Kristi Hopf: said...

I have just found your blog - after being on the field for 6 months, and after 6 months in Québec to learn French first.
I call these poofs as well, and this was my comfort item to bring for the next few years - much to the teasing of some family members; so this story made me smile.
Some of my own language mistakes:
In Québec -
1. In a store looking for a bathing suit top, I told the sales lady that I was looking for a blouse that was higher than the bathroom!
2. I missed pronounced muffin, and left the elderly lady I was living with confused as to why I was cooking skunks in her oven.
More recently, as I have started learning my african language:
1. I was trying to say that I knew their language a little - but I mispronounced the vowel and said the equivalent of lattle. However, in Africa if something is very little, you repeat the word to emphasize how little. So unfortunately when I said lattle lattle - I quite emphasized exactly how little I knew the language!
Thank you all for sharing your stories, it makes language learning so much easier to laugh at mistakes!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...