Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lost in Translation Part Two (saying it wrong)

Ok, so part one of Lost in Translation dealt with how I've often heard certain phrases incorrectly as a result of my family's accent.
Well for part two, I'll explain how some common phrases that I grew up saying have often been taken the wrong way - and all of a sudden I feel more like Mae West, than Melanie May!

For the most part the British sayings that I grew up with would leave people looking puzzled but not shocked.
It falls along the same line though, to me they were just words and phrases that I grew up with, I didn't initially distinguish what was British and what was Canadian, I didn't ask the origin of each word I was taught to speak.
You got the tip off from friends either giving you that blank stare or laughing at you, then I'd backtrack and try to find out the 'offending' word.
Usually there wasn't really anything to be offended about, many were just simple adjustments face cloth/flannel, candies/sweets, hood of a car/bonnet, trunk of a car/boot etc. Some words seemed a bit more confusing, like telling my friends I kept my clothes in a tall boy, which no one else seemed to have a clue what that meant and saying things like I was chuffed, also had friends wondering if that was good or bad?! Many of these phrases are much better known now, so it's not such a mystery to figure out what I'm saying.
Though there is one word that my mum often uses when talking about me to others, that usually leaves the listener slightly confused. She is often heard saying, 'Melanie has always been chesty', now people obviously think she's referring to 'my girls', which granted, yes I have 'em, but this exclamation by her always provides a smirk to those who hear it - especially men! What she is actually trying to convey is the fact that I've always been prone to chest infections, I had pneumonia three times before I was 2 years old, so in her way she's explaining my early medical condition. It makes it sound like she's trying to pawn me off to some job that'll make the most of my assets!

Having said that, I have gotten myself in a few awkward situations by way of my own tongue - already that sounds wrong!
My innocent words have often left me feeling a little bit like Jessica Rabbit -
the line where she says, 'I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way', well I sometimes feel like, 'I'm not bad, I just sound that way'.

One such example finds me giving a whole group of people a good ol' chuckle combined with a few blushing faces.
The scene - Newport, Wales - in a living room filled with about 20 family and friends all gathered to have a visit with my mum and I on our first return to the 'old' country together in almost 10 years. To fit everyone in the room, we've formed a large circle of chairs, all is going well, teapot working over-time and everybody's having a good ol' chinwag. One of the guests is a adorable little boy who was about 3 years old, he's decided to go round and round this circle of people, passing each one with a twinkle is his eye, he's enjoying that everyone is giving him a little wave, or saying 'hello' as he passes. This goes on for about 5 minutes, and he's getting a bit cheeky (in a fun way) with and I always connect - for 2 reasons I think, one because I love kids and I think they sense it and two because I'm pretty much kid-sized and not intimidating. So he starts to get braver with each passing, tapping my knee, or grabbing my hand, then on his final trip past me he decides to just stick his tongue out and touch it to my knee....laughing all the while. I, in a joking way with him say, 'get lost you little bugger'. His mum who was about the same age as me says, 'oh what did he do, is he bothering you?'
By this time, everyone seems to be at a break in their conversations and listening for my reply. I say, 'no he's not bothering me, he just licked my pants'.
Yup...pants....aka the most common term in Britain for underwear!!!!
So um, yeah, kinda puts a whole different spin on the situation!!
For some reason, it's the one word that I never remember to (quickly) translate. When I was little, my mum did refer to underwear as 'little pants', but that phrase just didn't become the norm in our house.
So to everyone's ears there, I just announced to a (now quiet) room full of people that this little boy had licked my underwear!! Lucky for me, everyone had a pretty good sense of humour, so once I clarified my blunder all was good. Yay me, way to make a great impression!

Now back on this side of the pond, while at work is where I once again find myself in need of a little s'plainin'. I was in the backroom of a store to get my stock, it happened to be placed in the high steel, which means I needed someone there to get it down for me. I asked a young guy in receiving if he could give me a hand, and he was lovely enough to agree. We just had to wait for the area to be cleared so he could get a ladder in the area that we needed to work in. While we're waiting we start chatting...about all kinds of stuff, he tells me that he just quit smoking and he's trying to make some positive changes to his life, started to run again and is going back to the gym too. He further explains, that he used to play football, but got injured quite bad and because of the resulting back injury he could no longer play. I make some mention about his job being very physical, and continue to say, 'it must be hard on your back, humping boxes all day'. As soon as the words left my mouth, I thought 'ooops'!!! The look on his face was priceless. Before he even got to ask me to explain, I quickly said, 'oh man, sorry...that's an expression I grew up with, it means to move a lot boxes etc', my nan would always say that. He laughed about it, and just 'I wondered what you meant'. Really lost in translation!!

Another 'offending' phrase I use, and can't seem to find just the right replacement phrase is 'cock up'. I know, obviously that's going to cause me all sorts of trouble, but it's a pretty innocent phrase really. Used when someone makes a big mistake, when they really bugger something - I'll say, 'well that was a massive cock up'....or 'what a bloody cock up'. It explains the situation like no other phrase can and it's usually the first thing out of my mouth....again, that sounds wrong!!!

I do take comfort in knowing I'm not the only one who makes these kinds of 'errors'. When I was in high school, we had a new student from England, one day during consumer math (yaaaawn) he put his hand up, and when the teacher asked him what he needed, he said, 'I need a rubber, does anyone have a rubber that I can borrow?' Well you can imagine the roars of laughter that burst out of our classroom doors. His face went beet red from everyone laughing at him though he had no idea what was so funny....I headed back to him and explained in Canada it's called an eraser and that a rubber is a condom. He then turned an even deeper shade of red, pretty sure he learned to drop that word quick like!

And the last example I have to share with you also comes from the mouth of another. On the same trip to Wales with my mum, we stayed with her childhood friend Edna in a home that would become my home away from home several times over the years. On this occasion though her nephew happened to come to stay with her for a few days, I remember thinking with him there, the dynamic of our stay had changed slightly, it was no longer me and a few older gals hanging but we now had a 17 year old male amongst longer would I feel comfortable lounging around in my pj's etc. I was 21 so at least there was someone closer to my age so that was good, and I always get along well with men so it wasn't a terrible situation. While the women nattered into the wee hours, Stevie and I sat at the kitchen table and played cards and I started to warm to the idea of having him around. Then when everyone decided to turn in for the night, there was talk of what time we should get things started the next day...people and places to visit etc.
At this point, my mum's friend Edna turns to me and says, 'what time do you want Stevie to knock you up?' Wow!!! Um....I just met him!!! Lucky for me I knew this was an innocent phrase that merely meant 'what time should he get you up'...she figured we'd both want to lie in a bit, so he could wake me up later while the rest of them could work on downing vast amounts of tea. Even though I knew the phrase it still surprised me for a split second. I mean, yeah I like playing cards with him but let's slow things down just a little!
Funny enough, the following year I came over for a solo, 3 month stay, at the same time, Stevie ended up moving in with Edna and well as fate would have it, we became a couple!
And I can share with you that although he never had to 'knock me up'....he was nice enough to occasionally wake me up with toast and a cuppa to be enjoyed in bed.


  1. Lovely story as usual! keep writing.. :)

  2. Thanks for reading it - and for your kind words, much appreciated!! xx