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Language Goofs - Tell us your stories

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Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018
Pending moderation

Mostaza does not mean mustache.

My co-worker, Antonio, had been on vacation for two weeks.

Upon his return, I saw that he had a new mustache.

I was learning Spanish, so I exclaimed, "Tony, ¡me gusta su mostaza!"

He replied, "You're crazy", because of course, mostaza means mustard.

Tell us your best stories!

(My thanks to ingirumimusnocte for the discussion idea.)

Member
Joined: 21.09.2018

I have a funny story.

When my parents first met, they would go out for tacos a lot. In her thick accent, my mom invited my dad out to try some 'interesting' tacos. So my dad, the adventurous man that he is, was all about it.
They got there and my dad said, "yuck these taste like rubbery shit" and then my mom says, "that's because they're INTESTINE tacos" and my dad replies, "Intestines?! Like tripe? I thought you said INTERESTING"

hahahaha

Moderator and Incorrigable
Joined: 03.06.2016

Menudo...Yum! Regular smile

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Sorry, no brains, no tongue, no tripe, no feet. If you don't learn to eat those things when you're young, it's hard as an adult to chew or swallow them. (Although tongue tacos would be okay but only if necessary for survival.)

Moderator and Incorrigable
Joined: 03.06.2016

Teeth smile

Editor in search of Anningan & Malina
Joined: 10.05.2012

My grandma would eat brains, ears and even eyes of animals. Horse especially. Intestines have always been considered a delicacy in my family. I, on the other hand, have always refused to eat them. I mean, I tasted them, but even if I was just a child I found them disgusting. Unless, as you said, you find yourself in the freezing Arctic...

Editor .
Joined: 09.10.2018

My best blunders were always with Russian.

Back in 1998 there was this big hit.
The chorus goes "Крошка моя, я по тебе скучаю" (sweetheart, I miss you so much).

With a few vodkas too many I tried to sing that song in a party.

Unfortunately, the way it's said in Russian is something like "I'm bored about you [not being there]".
Use the wrong preposition and it becomes "Крошка моя, я на тебе скучаю" (sweetheart, I'm bored when I'm on [top of] you).

I became an instant celebrity.

Moderator and Incorrigable
Joined: 03.06.2016

I can't be too specific.
While in South America I had a female assistant/govt. worker very cute and with a beautiful smile. Worked together for quite a while. Hence I called her "Mi Bonita Sonrisa" (My Beautiful Smile) and the similarity to 'sunrise' was also an allusion as well.
We got along very well although perhaps our intentions were different. One morning when I came I was 'dragging butt' (very tired). She asked me if I was cansado (tired), all Spanish, and I, not awake said I was casado (married). I did not even understand until she grew distant and after a couple of days it 'sank in'. Shot myself in the preverbal foot (wasn't even married). But that's a no takeback statement.

Moderator and Incorrigable
Joined: 03.06.2016

A friend and I were engaged in an official meeting. He was Polish and knew Russian. Many proper ladies at this meeting. He and I often spoke Polish privately. So there were opportunities to confuse things. In a speech he wanted to say that he wanted to let them know he was happy to be here. The word fumbled was jest/есть. It came out ебить. He told them basically he was happy to vulgarly put, have sexual relations. Many red-faces there. Perhaps he received some phone numbers? Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 19.07.2018

On my resume for the 1st job as a programmer, I wrote I had exceptional analytical skills. Of course, I thought it meant minimal. At the interview they asked me whether I truly think I have exceptional skills. I truly did think I had minimal analytical skills and so I was able to look them in the eye and confirm just so. The rest is history... I do have exceptional analytical skills.... Lol

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

--¿Tiene hambre?

--No. Estoy soltera.

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Exceptionally bad, that is! Regular smile

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

If I remember correctly, the American Sign Language word for "very" is similar to that of "sex". Fortunately I made the mistake of using the wrong sign in an ALS class, so the teacher and class knew I was learning. The teacher's words were, "Be careful!"

Editor
Joined: 18.10.2015

I used to have a beginner level adult student who instead of Give me kept saying Take me. I was afraid to let her out of the classroom. LOL But her American boyfriend told me that he found her English quite.... entertaining

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

I'll bet he did!

Editor .
Joined: 09.10.2018

My cheeky g/f used to liken my Russian to that of Jar Jar Binks.
To be honest, that's how Russian sounds when you can't decline and conjugate properly.

Editor Absolute Amateur
Joined: 27.03.2015

A friend told me what happened to a group of her acquaintances, who had gone to Madrid to visit a friend of them who lived there in a pension. So they ask the concierge where their friend was.
"Està arriba"(= he is upstairs) he replied.
Oddily, the Italians kept sitting calmly in the lobby.
The concierge repeated "El señor, vuestro amigo,¡està arriba!", without any result.
Finally, realizing that there had been a misunderstanding, explained it to gestures, pointing his finger to the steps ... and finally the Italians understood that "arriba" doesn't mean "he's coming" (= "arriva" ) but "upstairs".
*****
Once I was hearing two friends of mine, Spanish native-speakers, talking about a "strange thing" that actually seemed very usual to me.
"Don't you know that when you throw a chicken in the water, fish jump and eat it?"
"No, I can't believe it!"
"I swear: Julio's child showed me it. I know, it's hard to believe. If I would bet on it I'd make a lot of money."
"But you would waste a lot of money by buying chickens!" I told.
The two girls began to laugh" No,I'll put the chicken by myself, for free!"
I didn't know that "echar un pollo"(=throw a chicken) in a colloquial speech, also means "to spit"...

Editor
Joined: 16.02.2016

Interesting topic indeed!
I suggest moving this thread to "General language discussion" or "Members Only" as it is not limited to English language.

Super Member
Joined: 13.08.2017

a French native goes to a bakery in Spain
he asks: "two bollos please" (name of a bread)
but with his accent the baker hears "dos pollos por favor"(two chicken please)
And she answers no no no here we have only bread ..

Super Member
Joined: 02.01.2017

Well, this happened to me yesterday. I was chatting on social networks with a brazilian woman and she said
"os pais tão comprando coisa no meu nome, preocupadissima estou"
(my parents are buying things on my behalf, I'm worried)

Without noticing the lack of accent which differenciates "pais" (parents) from "país" (country) I replied
"eu pensei que todos os paises faziam isso"
(I thought all the countries were doing that)

I apologized

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Well, that's the only way to start. My Spanish is horrible but I keep improving and I swear, on my deathbed I will be babbling Spanish!

Editor .
Joined: 09.10.2018

Replace Spanish with Russian and you get the story of my life.

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Great idea. How do I do that? Or if you are able to do it yourself, I have no objection.

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

It's courageous to learn a language with a completely different alphabet. When I was twenty, I could have done it I suppose but I'm too tired now and the memory gets worse as you age.

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

ha ha, buying spit, no wonder they were laughing, gross! Regular smile

Super Member
Joined: 01.07.2018

I can remember two stories from the time I was tramping around :

- Once in Trieste, Italy, two guys from Austria who had picked me up as I was hitch-hiking invited me to a small restaurant. They had a glance at the menu and looked disgusted : - Oh, donkey meat, no, I don't feel like it. I had a look too, there stood written, in Italian : "Scaloppa al burro" (Escalope with butter). I told them that Italian wasn't quite Spanish...

- Once in a small town in Iceland, I was looking for a shop and couldn't find it, so I asked an Icelander, and he told be it was not far, "just on the left after the green house". I looked for a long time for that green house : there were blue, red, yellow and white houses, but no green one. Then my bus showed up, so I gave up and went away. Many years later (back in France...), I happened to learn what a "greenhouse" is : "a structure with walls and roof made chiefly of transparent material, such as glass, in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown" (so says Wikipedia). Too late.

Super Member
Joined: 19.07.2018

I once had a Russian lady as my boss, intelligent and well-respected, but she always pronounced warehouse as veryhouse, prompting me to mutter whore-y-house each time - see I was rhyming nonsense years ago!

Super Member
Joined: 01.07.2018

I can remember an incident that happened to me in Kandahar, Afghanistan (before the war ...). It was not really a goof, rather a problem of misunderstanding. I was desperately trying to find out where did the bus for Pakistan leave from, and since no one spoke English around, I used to ask regularly: Chaman? Fâkistan? Motarrr? (As I had understood, Chaman was the Pakistani border city, Fâkistan was the local pronunciation for Pakistan and "motarrr" meant "bus" or something like that). Finally an Afghan in local costume took me under his protection, and we went together through a good half of the city. We finally came to a building with a terraced floor, and he brought me up. It seemed rather filthy and stinky. Could these really be the premises of the bus company? Then the Afghan guy, with a big smile and a noble gesture, showed me a series of cabins: there were public stand-up toilets.

I never knew if he really did not understand me or if he was just making fun of me.

Super Member
Joined: 02.01.2017

There's also a joke in spanish about the use of tilde:

A worker wanted to write a letter to his boss expressing his condolences after the boss wife died, so he tried to write
"La pérdida de su esposa me tiene apenado"
(The loss of your wife saddens me)

But he forgot to put the accent, so he wrote
"La perdida de su esposa me tiene apenado"
(Your degenerate wife saddens me)

Super Member
Joined: 11.08.2015

For the longest time everyone in my family thought that Ricky Martin’s song “Livin’ la Vida Loca” was partially in Russian since the part “...da loca” sounds like “далёко”. Regular smile

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Some of these should be sent to Reader'sDigest!

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Oh no!

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

Aaaaah! I was imagining a house painted green too! All these stories are hilarious!

Junior Member
Joined: 31.08.2018

It's no wonder you became a Super Member.

Editor Absolute Amateur
Joined: 27.03.2015

One of the most famous misunderstanding between spanish speakers concern the verbs “tomar” and “coger”, which are synonimous in Spain( = to take), but in America you’ve got to use only”tomar”, because “coger” means something like “to fuck”( heritage of the times in which spanish men used to go “a coger ìndias”).
A spanish friend of mine went to Buenos Aires, and absentmindedly asked to an airport employee:
“Por favor, ¿dónde puedo coger un taxi?” And him:
“Bueno, no lo sé...¿Quizás por el tubo de escape?”

Editor Absolute Amateur
Joined: 27.03.2015

This happened to my brother in Greece. In a restaurant, at the end of a meal, he tried to ask for a slice of watermelon(in Italian, “anguria”)
The waiter, a little bit surprised, ask for a confirmation:
“Do you want angouri?”
“yes, angouri!”
“Do you want it in slices?”making a gesture like to slice a sausage.
“Yes, in slices, but in this way!” miming to slice it lenghtwise.

The waiter came back soon with a big cucumber lenghtwise sliced.

Ἐλέῳ Θεοῦ Βασιλεὺς Ῥωμανίας
Joined: 01.08.2018

Oddio, ma che divertente! Teeth smile

Super Member
Joined: 01.07.2018

This is more a geographical goof than a linguistic one :
At Waterloo Station, London, I watched a very excited Frenchman explaining to a British hostess :
- A boat ticket ! I want a boat ticket to Dover !
Coldly answered the imperturbable hostess :
- Sir, Dover is in England.

Guest

My God, he wasn't in Italy! In Greek, it's called "karpouzi". Didn't he know that?

Ἐλέῳ Θεοῦ Βασιλεὺς Ῥωμανίας
Joined: 01.08.2018

From my first time in Zagreb, Croatia:

A little back-story: My family lives there since 2017, but my father went there one and a half year prior.

So, we were in his then apartment and suddenly the front door bell rings. In Greece, we usually respond with the "yes" word ("næ"), or with «Εμπρός;» ("Embrós?" = "Hello?"). For some reason, I chose the first one. The problem is that, in Balkan Slavic (South Slavic) languages, the word "ne" (which sounds like the Greek one) means "no"!

It was the postman and the guy freaked out, because of my voice's tone and he was like "Pošta! Pošta!" (=postal service). Realising my mistake, I quickly hung up the entry phone and pressed the button, ashamed of my mechanical response (and not remembering a detail I already knew).

Editor Absolute Amateur
Joined: 27.03.2015

I read this one on the web. A woman was telling about how hard had been for his husband to deal with a spanish menu. He wanted to know what “cordero” was:
“Il cordero, cos’è?” he asked to the waiter.
“El cordero...¿José?”
“ Si! Il cordero, cos’è?”
(???)

After having excluded that he asked for “José the lamb”, the waiter, maybe tired from the effort to understand his customer , have the idea to make the cry of the animal, and launched a sonorous:
“Muuuu!”

Ionesco couldn’t do better.

Editor Absolute Amateur
Joined: 27.03.2015

This is the last one, I swear!
I was in France for some concert; in a restaurant I was trying to decide what to eat.
“Nous avons des rognons…”
“Rognons…sont ces-ci au bas du dos?”
“Oui. Rognons avèc les pâtes, comme en Italie!”

Among the musicians there was my daughter. Thanks to her fluent French and her instinct, she immediately realized that my stunned expression couldn’t have been caused only by this odd new about italian custom of eating pasta topped with kidney, and quickly comforted me:
“Mom, he has told “rognons avèc les pâtes”, not “avèc les pattes”!

Editor .
Joined: 09.10.2018

You can theoretically hear the difference between "patte" and "pâte" (the 'a' should be very brief and closer to a 'e', while the 'â' is supposed to last longer and require opening the mouth a bit more), but I suppose that gets some getting used to.
At any rate I never saw a "kidneys and legs" dish in a French restaurant Regular smile

Moderator Polyglot Scot
Joined: 26.07.2013

Some in Finnish I heard second-hand:
Some English speakers being very amused at seeing food with "Megapussi" ("mega-bag")written on it. Tongue smile

On a ship, there were a group of Finns near a group of Italians. One Finn sees something and begins yelling "katso! katso!" ("look, look") much to the confusion of Italians (for whom "cazzo" means something... quite different :P)

Editor Absolute Amateur
Joined: 27.03.2015

The best for us italian is hearing a Finnish saying "guarda il mare"...

Editor .
Joined: 09.10.2018

Back in 2000 I used to play a Russian flight simulator. When a Russian (virtual) pilot got shot down he would say "Я подбит, я подбит!" ("I'm going down! I'm going down!").
The French buddies I played with kept chuckling hearing that, since it sounds nearly exactly like "y a pas de bite" (Help! Can't find my dick!).

Editor Absolute Amateur
Joined: 27.03.2015

The problem is that that both manager and waiters were Germans ... Wink smile

Super Member
Joined: 01.07.2018

Ha ha, remembers me of that old joke that made our delight when we were schoolboys :
A Dutch flight passenger on Air France gets an aspirine tablet from the stewardess and thankfully murmurs :
- Dank U! (= Thank you!)
Upon which the stewardess, horrified, replies :
- Non non non non ! Dans la bouche ! (For heavens's sake, no ! Into your mouth !)

[ "Dank U" in French sounding like "Dans le cul" (in the ass) ]

Editor
Joined: 31.12.2013

Excuse my butting in, but the difference between 'a' and 'â' has long been lost in European French... both are pronounced /a/ now.

Super Member
Joined: 01.07.2018

Well I still make a distinction between "pâte" and "patte", just like "bête" and "bette", or "côte" and "cotte". Actually, in French cooking, "des côtes de bettes avec des pâtes" (chards with pasta) are not animal ribs with legs (des côtes de bêtes avec des pattes ?).

Super Member
Joined: 19.07.2018

Lol, I am far from super... I just exercise my brain pretty much out out of desperation. Good thing, it's working for now - love LT.

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