Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

"Oops, that's not what I meant!"..Language boo boos

"Oops, that's not what I meant!"..Language boo boos

Old Jul 21st, 2000, 11:04 AM
Posts: n/a
Not quite the same, but hilarious, anyway. On our last flight back from Heathrow, our seats were split slightly,
because the rows were staggered. We had
our toddler with us, so we decided to take turns, one would sit with him while
the other sat 1 across/1 back. I took the first baby shift.

Halfway home, we switched seats. The other seat was next to a large family party, with an elderly lady in the last seat. My husband had been attempting to reply to her friendly conversational gambits with every language he knew, but she was just looking at him oddly in response, and smiling a lot. He tried Spanish, French, German, even Italian; but she just kept smiling at him. I know
a few other little bits of unusual languages, but not many, so I braced myself and sat down. She looked up, smiled, and began conversing with me in perfectly comprehensible English, but spoken with a heavy Glaswegian accent! She said she was so happy I'd sat down there, because "that young man was friendly, but he didn't speak English, and I so love meeting new people."
I nearly exploded trying not to laugh!
Needless to say, I still razz my
spouse about that incident.
Old Aug 22nd, 2000, 11:52 AM
Posts: n/a
to the top!
Old Aug 23rd, 2000, 04:39 AM
Posts: n/a
Here's some gems concerning the difference between American & English "English" :

There was an unforgettable episode of "Mork & Mindy" ( Robin Williams ) which featured a characte called Arnold Wanker. In England a "Wanker" is the equivalent of the American phrase "Jerk Off".

Dudley Moore was being interviewed on American TV & was asked if he had any bad habits. Dudley, thinking of smoking,
replied with something like "I'm not happy unless there's a fag in my mouth"
( "Fag" Being English slang for cigarette ).

Some people like to hang out little bags of food for wild birds in the winter. Here in the UK there is a company that makes them so you don't have to make them yourself. They call them "Fat Peckers".
Old Aug 23rd, 2000, 12:24 PM
Posts: n/a
Because these are all so much fun to read!
Old Aug 23rd, 2000, 02:33 PM
Posts: n/a
Funny how something that was started 2 1/2 years ago is still timelessly funny.

I have three quick ones. The first is the same as Karen's above. My cousin is a Roman and speaks no English. His wife met him when she was a student on vacation and spoke no Italian. They hit it off and she moved there and they have been married for 25 years, so sometimes what you say isn't as important as how you convey meaning. Nevertheless, they were out grocery shopping with his father and she asked him to pass her some fiche (as Karen said, a rather un-ladylike euphism for a female body part) rather than figs. I am sure, since they were still telling the story 25 years later, that they all found it very amusing.

Another one is more a matter of not always understanding foreign customs. My parents took us to Europe when we were quite young. My father was fairly unsophisticated and curious. So when he was in the bathtub in our hotel in Paris, he pulled the little cord hanging there. A few minutes later, an attractive, young housekeeper showed up and tried to convince my mother that there was someone in the bathroom that needed assistance. My mother told her she would take care of it and sent her on her way.

Finally, as several people have pointed out, a very minor change in a word can make a big difference. Yesterday I was reading one of our fellow Fodorite's recommendation to someone to order grilled sword peach instead of sword fish. Could be tasty, I suppose, but probably not what he meant.

ciao e grazie for the laughter!
Old Aug 24th, 2000, 03:41 AM
Posts: n/a
And what about those hilarious menu translations where the Restaurant owner thinks they have put the ( Usually English ) equivalent of the dish alongside their 'native' version ?

In the South of France I once looked at a menu where the owner had done just that. It didn't take much brainpower to work out that "Moulds" was probably some sort of fungi. But what was I to make of "Rawness" ? Not to mention the unforgettable "Saucepan of the Sinners" !? As my French is nil does anyone have any idea what this last one was ? It's been tormenting me for years.
Old Aug 24th, 2000, 04:49 AM
Posts: n/a
Several years ago, we made some experiments on mice in our lab.
My boss (female and French speaking) had
one escaped from the cage their mice were in. She asked us(in Dutch, a language she couldn't speak fluently)
'Heeft U mijn muisje al gezien ?'
(Have you seen my little mouse yet ?'
We answered with a good laugh !
Old Aug 24th, 2000, 04:57 AM
Posts: n/a
Oops. Explanation ?
Muisje = common Dutch word for
female private parts.
Old Aug 24th, 2000, 06:37 PM
Posts: n/a
Very funny and educational!
keep them coming
Old Aug 24th, 2000, 08:29 PM
Posts: n/a
We were fortunate too have a Japanese exchange student at our house a couple years ago. One morning he ran into the living room with a wild look and shouted "The Cow Is HERE!".He is a softspoken young man so I was stunned.. until he led me to my front door where a cow was firmly standing. After we got help to round it back in the pen we laughed for a long time!
Old Aug 24th, 2000, 09:27 PM
Posts: n/a
For Jef:


is a slang expression and exclamation when one makes a small, insignificant mistake that is more funny than serious.
Old Aug 25th, 2000, 02:24 AM
Posts: n/a
A bit more "AmerEnglish" for you....

From 'The Moon's a Balloon' by David Niven.

Mr Niven was arranging an early morning date with a female freind. His friend expressed concern that she might not be able to get up so early in the morning.
Using a common phrase that means very different things depending which side of the Atlantic you're on Mr Niven replied "That's OK, I'll come round and knock you up" !

Now here's a question for all you Spanish speakers out there:

I can only speak 'un poco Espanol' but I possess a book of 'Colloquial Spanish' that asserts that certain very respectable words ( in Spain ) acquire very different meanings in certain parts of Latin America. For instance the verb 'Cojer' - 'to get' apparently means 'to f**k' in some SA places. It also states that the word for 'Glass'
becomes 'Hubcap' & the word for a small
packet ( such as a pack of cigarettes ) becomes a derogatory term for a male homosexual ! IE it would be possible to go into a bar & order "a hubcap of beer & a queer of cigarettes" ??? (apologies to any gay readers !).
It also warns of going into a shop & asking for eggs 'Huevos' or milk 'Leche' as these are colloquialisms for 'Testicles' & 'Semen'. I would be interested to know if my book 'knows what it's talking about'.
Old Aug 25th, 2000, 02:15 PM
Posts: n/a

Reviving this one...

"Saucepan of sinners" was probably Poele des Pecheurs...

As one of the posters mentioned, fisher and sinner are almost the same except an accent so I assume when the restaurant owner translated he mistook the spellings in his native french and looked up the wrong one.

I have also made some of the mistakes mentioned here. When my french exchange mother asked me why I wasnt eating much I also replied that I was pregnant, (I just said I was full!!!). I was 16 at the time, which is why she looked so shocked!

My friend on the same trip asked for condoms to have with her toast at breakfast...

The list goes on...

I dont want to even think about the ones I missed!
Old Aug 25th, 2000, 06:23 PM
Posts: n/a
I purchased a bottle of an Italian dessert jam.
It says "Questo goloso dessert....e` una "Dolce Pausa" in ogni occasione!"
Underneath it translates into German and English.
The english reads "This greedy dessert" (which is correctly translated,
But what is meant by a "greedy" dessert?

Then it ends up stating "It's a "sweat break" in any occasion."
Dolce means sweet, not sweat!
I thought this was a cute mistake.

God knows what kind of mistakes I will make when I attempt speaking italian next year on our vacation.

Old Aug 26th, 2000, 06:21 PM
Posts: n/a
this one's for Hunky--it is true that in some Spanish-speaking countries, at least, "huevos" is a touchy word. I've been told not to use it. If you want to order them you say "scrambled", "fried" or whatever, but not the word itself.

Of course, obscenities, like customs, vary from country to country. I know mostly about Chile.
Old Aug 26th, 2000, 08:00 PM
Posts: n/a
I haven't actually done this one but read about it on a French slang page.

If you say 'repetez, svp' (repeat please) wrongly, it can mean 'fart again, please'. Apparently 'peter' meants 'to fart'. Unfortunate for anyone of that name
Old Sep 1st, 2000, 04:52 PM
Posts: n/a
To the top for GB
Old Sep 2nd, 2000, 05:04 AM
Posts: n/a
Old Sep 4th, 2000, 01:02 PM
Posts: n/a
Here is a reminder to watch your sign language as well. A beefeater (guard) at the tower of London asked me how long I had been married. I raised my first 2 fingers to indicate 2 years. He did not look pleased. I then suddenly recalled that in the U.K. the first 2 fingers are equivalent to the middle finger in the U.S. I apologized and we got a good laugh out of it.
Old Sep 5th, 2000, 05:09 AM
Posts: n/a
Here's some more AmerEnglish.......

Thanks to the last Austin Powers movie most people in the US will be aware of what 'Shag' means in the UK. Well years before the movie I was reading one of those 'Success Manuals' & was reduced to tears when the author mentioned that he had earned money during high school by working at a golf club 'Shagging golf balls'.

When driving in the UK, if a visitor from the US should encounter a sign that reads 'Refuse Tip', this does not mean that they should no longer accept gratuities for services rendered. It means they're approaching a Garbage Dump.

In the UK a Rooster is referred to as a Cockerel, or more simply, a Cock. Here in the North of England this is used, mostly by older people, as a term of endearment, usually towards a child:
'How are you today cock ?' etc. I play Guitar & at a gig once a drunken young French student asked us to play the French National Anthem. I replied 'sorry cock, we don't play that'. He looked drunkenly bemused for a second & then shouted 'Cock ?, Cock is Penis, YOU CALL ME PENIS !'.

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information -