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#29926 - 05/21/01 03:32 PM Greenhorn stories  
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,400
of troy Offline
Carpal Tunnel
of troy  Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 5,400
rego park
The ‘read the directions' thread got me thinking– its not just directions that get mangled–

As has been discussed at various times– each english language community has its own idioms and frequently, a slightly different meanings to a word.

There are enough of us on this board that we are bound to have some good greenhorn stories. Occasions when a word or phrase from one culture doesn't quit make it in another– either because of outright language difficulties– or just being unfamiliar with a local idiom.

One of my favorites comes from my cousins who are half italian- Their italian grandmother struggled to learn english– by the time I knew her, she had been in the country for many years, and spoke english very well, but with an accent. When she was younger, her biggest problem was with idioms.. Her children use idioms all the time– but she usually had trouble.

One day she received the good news that her newly wed sister was having a baby– and proudly announced to the family, in the idiom she was most familiar with– "(Aunt) Connie been knocked up!"–Her teen age sons fell over laughing– and left their sister to explain why this was not the correct idiom to use.

And my own parents– occasionally got tripped up with american idioms– I was a teen– and had been commandeered, with siblings, into painting one weekend– instead of going to the beach with friends.. My mother promised –"Next time all your friends are going to the beach– I'll give you a dollar to go along" (this would have been enough for bus fair and a soda, and double my normal allowance.)

But I was sullen and skeptical– my mother was cheap, and likely to forget this promise when the time came. I retorted "Yeah, my eye!"– Which caught her attentions– she quickly asked "What wrong with your eye– did you get paint in it?" The mirth that resulted made painting fun (at least for a little while!)

#29927 - 05/21/01 04:03 PM Re: Greenhorn stories  
Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 275
wordcrazy Offline
wordcrazy  Offline

Joined: Jan 2001
Posts: 275
About a year ago, on one of those dog days of August, I went into a hardware store and while paying for my stuff I noticed that the teenager cashier was really sweating because of the heat. So I gaily made small talk and said to him "Boy, you really look so hot!" He suddenly got red as a beet and fumbled about with the change and did not respond to my comment. My daughter who was also a teenager then explained to me that the word hot has another meaning.
One thing though, everytime I go to the hardware store I am promptly attended to.


#29928 - 05/21/01 04:15 PM Re: Greenhorn stories  
Joined: May 2001
Posts: 28
slovovoi Offline
slovovoi  Offline

Joined: May 2001
Posts: 28
Saint Louis, MO, US
Your cousins' granny really showed some idiomatic knowhow - she understood perfectly the semantics of 'being knocked up' in the Amur'can idiom. It was the supralinguistic elements (contextual appropriateness) that she wasn't clear on.

From my own background as an ESOL teacher overseas, imagine the looks of bewilderment when I praised a student's exceptionally astute (and well-phrased) comment in class by telling him, "You have a point."

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