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HTT: Seperated by a common language

Linette Atlassian Team Jul 25, 2018

In one of other threads here I used a term which has subtly different meanings across the world.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. I remember 2 very striking incidents when I moved to Australia from England.

It's easy to presume word usage will be just the same, so when I saw a sign on a hotel (pub) here that said "no rubber thongs allowed" I was pretty shocked! I didn't immediately realize they meant what I called 'flip flops', so I was boggled at the kind of establishment that might have to mandate that rule, and how they would know!?!

The other thing that surprised me was when someone told me they were dressing up for a wedding here in "nice pants, vest, and suspenders" I heard "nice underpants, string vest, and garterbelt" rather than what they meant: "nice trousers, waistcoat, and braces" (as we would have said in England).

Have you had any similar experiences with language mix ups?

5 comments

Monique vdB Community Manager Jul 25, 2018

My favorite example of this is from my grandmother, who was a Dutch immigrant. She had some type of medical procedure done and her doctor told her to avoid douching for a month. Her English was pretty good but there's a lot of overlap between English and Dutch, and "douche" in Dutch is basically the word for "shower." So... it was a long month... 

Linette Atlassian Team Jul 25, 2018

Oh my word, I can only imagine!!

Not much to add, but this made me think -- 

A coworker of mine hails from Russia. She recently used the phrase 'Kill two rabbits with one bullet', to describe tackling some problems at work. 

Since the American colloquialism is 'Kill two birds with one stone', I found this downright hilarious. 

Linette Atlassian Team Jul 25, 2018

isn't it interesting how close some of these phrases can be, and yet so different too!!

Thomas Schlegel Community Leader Jul 26, 2018

Something similar is said in Germany as well: "Zwei Fliegen mit einer Klappe schlagen" - Kill two flies with one flap.

Linette Atlassian Team Jul 26, 2018

THAT IS AMAZING. I think that's my favourite version so far!

I got caught out with one word once, many years ago.

I said "I will do something presently", wandered off to make some tea and came back to a flurry of emails asking why I had not done it, which annoyed me because I'd been clear that I would do it presently.

In English, it means "quite soon" and the assumption is that while it's the next thing you will do, you'll finish what you are currently doing first, and/or maybe make tea as well.

In American English, it means as close as possible to "now", only one step down from "immediately drop everything"

I do not use the word any more, just to avoid that happening again.

(But I still giggle when Americans are talking about "suspenders" - the English all immediately start thinking of "Rocky Horror")

Linette Atlassian Team Jul 26, 2018

oh wow! I've not yet had the experience of people expecting presently to be ASAP, I'll definitely be careful using it now!

Be careful with "now" and South Africans - this was an eye-opener! :)

Linette Atlassian Team Jul 29, 2018

*boggles*

I told all my US friends I was making my new team a "hamper" because I was starting work and they all looked disgusted.

Turns out "hamper" in American means "basket for dirty laundry" whereas in Australia it means a nice basket with treats and goodies in it. (What Americans call a "care package...")

A hamper is something one takes to the races or for a picnic.  As in https://www.harrods.com/en-gb/food-and-wine/hampers/all-hampers

hamper.jpg

Oh for the seriously reals.... @Nic Brough _Adaptavist_  Dropping that here at 15:00....Now all I'm going to think about between now and going home time is how lovely that would be to have right now.

Last time I used a hamper like that, I was staying at the red house at the top of the hill, and went for a picnic in the garden:

stowe.jpg

Linette Atlassian Team Jul 26, 2018

Glaaaahhhh... (drools)

(and I also didn't know about the US version of hamper. I'm learning so much in this thread!)

Me too.

I knew it was used for "laundry basket", and the English do use hamper to mean that as well.  I did not know that it was the only meaning in the US, I'd always assumed it also meant "care package". 

The English use "care package" too, but it usually means "stuff your mum packs for you when you leave for university" or "box of essential stuff given to someone who does not have it", rather than "basket full of treat food and drink"

This convo makes me think back to time spent in New Zealand.  When I first showed up, I noticed a pretty common phrase, but I couldn't parse it at all, with the accents. It sounded like they all went around saying Sweet A$$...!!! Which I was fairly certain *wasn't* right, but couldn't figure it out.  Finally got the courage up to ask a flatmate.  It's 'Sweet As'  Short for Sweet as Honey/Sugar.  Basically cool!  We all had a pretty good laugh about what I'd been hearing.

I miss those guys...and our perpetual argument about the correct pronunciation of mauve and the use of implied "to be" ie Needs washed, vs needs to be washed. 

A few years ago I learnt many differences between NZ and US English - often the hard way.

In Kiwi-land 'enquiry' and 'inquiry' are different words with different meanings. To our US customers, the first one was just poor spelling and the second one was used for both meanings.

I also had to get out of the habit of saying "No problems" when meaning "I have heard you and will get on to that right away" after US customers would respond with "But I just told you the problem!"

A fun one I've heard is talking about weekend fun "tramping". Here it means going for a nature walk, whereas in the US it is a different type of activity not usually talked about openly in polite conversation. :P

 

P.S. Organisation, colour, etc.

Linette Atlassian Team Jul 26, 2018

hahahah, Sweet A$$!!  of course it would have been more clear if it was a uk person saying it, as you'd certainly notice if we were saying Sweet Rrrrr-se as it's pronounced in the UK.

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