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Friday, November 9, 2012



I speak a little Spanish; a word here and there.  If spoken very slowly I might understand enough to get the gist of a conversation. If I read Spanish I might be able to decipher enough words to figure out what is being conveyed.  Typical conversational Spanish not only leaves me out in the cold, but often has me completely scratching my head.

I sometimes think, “How does anyone understand when it is spoken so fast?”  Then I realize those of us fluent in English are guilty of the same confusing speech as are other language speaking peoples.

Some words or phrases are particularly easy to confuse.

For example:

Airline/hairline: “Dude I got an airline fracture and it really hurts!”

Hurts! You’re lucky to be alive.

Bruce/Bruise: “I get my hair done once a week by Mr. Bruise.”

Damn, that sounds painful.

Tidal surge/Title search: “The tidal surge on my house took three weeks.”

Well, at least you had plenty of time to clear out before the flood.

Hair weaves/Air waves: “Sometimes I just wish they would take Donald Trump off the hair weaves all together.”

Hey, I think it looks silly, but what he does with his head doesn’t bother me.

Hike/Kike: “He was so rude I told him to take a kike.”

That sounds not only rude, but a bit anti-Semitic!

Piss on/Piston: “It’s going to cost a lot to fix Mac; you’ve got a blown piss on!”

Actually I think I would remember if my piss on was blown!

Fired/Hired: “You are doing a great job, I am so glad you were fired.”

Gee, that hardly seems fair at all.

Fission/Fishing: “My brother is an expert in nuclear fishing.”

Hmmm…fortunately I am a meatatarian. (I know, but it sounds funnier to me than carnivore.)

Black ice/Black guys: “When the temperature drops in this storm you have to be careful driving on the black guys.

Careful? I think I’ll just drive around them, not on them!


Then there are those phrases peculiar to certain areas of the country.  If you are in New York you may speak perfect English but might not understand this conversation:

“Yo, ‘snoon…jeetyet?

“No jew?”

“No letsqueet”

“Hey, it is noon have you eaten yet?”

“No, did you?”

“No, let us go and eat.”

How about

“Yo owudoon?”

“Hey, how are you doing?”

At work we had a secretary answer the phone with this question,

“Mr. Brownsout, maskoozecallin?”

“Mr. Brown is out; may I ask who is calling?”


Speaking a language fluently is not always a good thing.


  1. Fluently? You mean flatuently? I guess that's what my teacher meant when she said "my english stinks!"


  2. Are you suffering from reptile dysfunction?

  3. A true story from a blog I posted earlier this year:

    My son-in-law had recently arrived in the US from Italy. He was taking an ESL (English as a Second Language) course & had gotten a job as a stock boy. He came over one day & said, “Mom, this guy at work keeps asking me questions around lunchtime & I don’t know what he’s saying. I looked up the words & couldn’t find them in the dictionary.” I asked him what the words were. He told me, “jeet” & “wajeet”. If he hadn’t mentioned that it was around lunchtime, I’m not sure I could’ve helped him. I told him the guy was asking, “Did you eat?” & “What did you eat?”.

  4. My children have become very fond of saying
    "What language is it you speak?"
    "ah yes, English!"
    "Where is it I am from?"
    "Thats right, England - it's my language, don't tell me I don't know how to speak it"

    Makes me laugh...The 9yr old I look after says that he speaks English and I speak UK, and then tells me I have no clue how to pronounce words properly! It's a blast! However his Mum tells me that he now puts stuff in the 'bin' instead of the 'trash' and he fetches the 'wheelie bins' in instead of the 'trash cans'

    I love the diversity of language, and how so many of us apparently speak the same language but cannot be understood! it's all a question of dialect.

    Have a great day!
    Lou :-)

  5. I love dialects and differing word usage. Unfortunately we're all watching TV now and before you know it our wonderful regional differences will be gone.

  6. When I first met my husband, he was backpacking through Canada. He'd phone me and try to have a conversation (which is funny in itself, because now he'll avoid talking on the phone at all costs). I spent the entire phone conversation asking him to repeat himself, because I couldn't understand a word of what he was saying; he had a New Zealand accent. It was much easier in person, because I could read his lips to help me to decipher. Luckily, in time, we got over this little language barrier.

  7. Well, you know what they say - It's better to be pistoff than piston. . .

    I once had a long conversation with a friend from Honduras (really!) about the different dialects of Spanish. It was simultaneously interesting and hilarious ("The Mexicans sing when they talk"). He said, "The Spaniards think that they speak Spanish the way God speaks Spanish." I said, "Yeah, the British are the same way, only instead of God, it's the Queen. . ."

    And of course, who could forget the confusion as to whether Jimi Hendrix was asking us to excuse him while he kissed 'This guy' or 'The sky'. . .

  8. And of course, when I was in college, this was a daily bit of dialogue:




  9. I live in the North of England and love the local dialect.
    In Newcastle you would hear:
    "Divunt dropyer dottle onthu proggymat man' (Translation from Geordie - Please do not drop your cigarette ash on the carpet.)
    A little to the north you would hear:
    "Ah dinna ken awurd yeseyin" (I don't understand a word you are saying)
    To the South you would hear:
    "Ahm ganninyam cos am sickov yous" (I'm going home because I'm sick of you)