Saturday, May 2nd, 2009

English isn’t the same everywhere

There have been some commnets in the newspaper recently about words that can mean different things in different parts of the world and which have got people on overseas visits into trouble when they said something that had a totally different meaning in that country. These comments reminded me of a few others that I have come across and so I thought I would write this warning for those of you who may not be aware of these differences. Note that while some of the ones I mention appeared in the newspaper, not all of them did and those I am listing are ones I have personal experience of people using in ways that could be misunderstood.

  • gay doesn’t always mean happy
  • fag doesn’t always mean cigarette
  • a poof isn’t always a piece of furniture on which to rest your feet
  • buggered doesn’t always mean extremely tired
  • a rubber isn’t always used for rubbing out pencil marks on paper
  • pants are not always a reference to underwear
  • a bum isn’t always meant to be a reference to the part of your anatomy that you sit on
  • fanny isn’t always an intimate part of the female anatomy
  • an entre doesn’t always come before the main course in a meal
  • not everyone when asked to bring a plate to a function realises that it is supposed to have food on it when you bring it

As you can see from most of the ones I have listed there is plenty of opportunity for people in various parts of the world who are using common phrases in that location to be completely misinterpreted if they say it to someone from some other part of the world where it might have a totally different meaning.

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