Friday, 23 May 2008

We speak the same language, don't we?

For the most part ...yes. However there are some differences between American English and the English spoken by the rest of the world, that can lead to some confusing and funny misunderstandings. Factor in slang words and it can get downright hilarious at times!

We do see a lot of American TV shows and movies in NZ, so I was fairly up on the language differences. However, I found out quickly that Americans did not always understand what I was saying and that I was not as up on the American lingo as I thought I was.

Examples of the differences can be found here and here.

Some of the funnier misunderstandings ...

The first night I arrived in the US, I was taken out for dinner. On the menu was 'Biscuits and Gravy'. In NZ a biscuit = a cookie. Fortunately one of my fellow diners explained that a US biscuit was like a NZ scone. Until then I had a vision of Mallowpuffs swimming in a pool of gravy.

I also found out quickly that ordering an item off a restaurant menu was not that simple. For example, ordering eggs resulted in this list of options from the food server. "Do you want them over easy, sunny side up, scrambled, egg beaters, etc, etc." For ages I took the easy way out and ordered scrambled eggs. They just seemed less complicated, plus I knew what they were. To this day I'm still not sure what the other options signify! Well, other than the egg beaters. They're a staple in this house, these days.

Was taken to a party about a week after I got here. This man walked up to me, stuck his hand out and the conversation went something like this..

Him .. "Hi, I'm Randy"

Me .. "That's your problem, not mine" , as I stalked off.

Poor man then asked my friends what he'd done to upset me. Basically, in NZ, 'randy' = 'horny' and I'd thought that he was hitting on me. It's also one of the reasons you don't find many kids in NZ called 'Randy'.

At the garden dept in Lowes, I asked one young man where they kept their " Pot plants ". I was a little taken back at his look of horror and his " Ma'am, we don't sell those here, they're illegal!! " At that point I looked over his shoulder and said " Yes you do, there's some over there. " He turned around and the look of relief on his face was almost comical. " Oh, you mean potted plants!! "

Well .. they were plants in pots, ie, pot plants!! Perhaps I should have said house plants. :-)

By now, anybody that has read the links to the NZ-US dictionaries, will probably realise that going to NZ and announcing that you want to 'root for the team' does not mean the same thing in both countries! For those that have not perused the links,that I helpfully gave, root or rooting, in NZ, is slang for having sex.:-)

When I first arrived in Nevada, I saw trucks driving around with names like 'Mr Rooter', 'A-Rooter-Man', 'Joe's Rooter Service', etc, emblazoned on their sides. For a little while, in all innocence and knowing that NV was a state where prostitution was legal, I sort of thought they might be mobile brothels. I was quickly told that they were actually plumbing vans.

All was well, until our toilet blocked up and I had to call a plumber. This nice gentleman showed up and I explained the problem. I had myself well under control until he said "No problem, Ma'am, I'll have your pipes rooted out in no time."

I lost it. I was literally hysterical with laughter. There were tears running down my cheeks, my stomach muscles hurt and I had to lean against the wall for support. Poor man must have thought he had a total nut job on his hands.

I finally calmed down enough to explain what I had found so funny. I think it made his day.

Don't you just love language and differences? :-) I think I could probably write pages and pages of the funny things that have happened. It's certainly made my time, here in the US, interesting. It's also probably made me a little unforgettable to some of the Americans that I've met :-)



MargieAnne said...

Oh! I am paralysed with laughter.
Thanks for your comment on my blog. I am going to so enjoy reading yours.

TWJ will enjoy this one too.

We never got used to all the choices that are offered in a restaurant, but we loved travelling in the States and I long to go back. Hopefully next year we will have a couple of weeks on our way to Vancouver.

kikimonster said...

Hi there! If it's any consolation I HATE ground turkey. But Turkey Bacon and turkey kielbasa are fine. I know, I'm weird :)

applejoos said...

I'm sure you've been here in the US now to know that there are quite a few people who do "root for the team". Heh. Busy, busy Americans.

Toni said...

I had a friend from Australia who said being "stuffed" meant pregnant, but here in the U.S. "stuffed" means an extremely full stomach from eating too much. When once I said I was "stuffed", she thought I was making an announcement.