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The same but different

By On Jan 6 2013, 2:22 pm

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Anyone who knows me, even a little, knows I can spend a fair amount of time with my foot in my mouth :) I’ve thrown name (South African slang for made a fool of my myself) in quite a few different countries and more than a few languages.  In a note I wrote to the parents of one of my students I mixed up the Hebrew letters Zyn and Tsadic in one crucial word and told them their kid’s…um…fornications would be negatively affected if they continued to not hand in assignments (I was trying for the word “grades” but that one letter made a whole lot of difference). True story.

At a rather fancy dinner party I once said I didn’t like the host of a new cooking show because the woman never shut up and gave her guests a chance to talk. Turned out she was the hostess of the dinner party’s bestie. Awesome.

When the Moore clan moved the UK 6 months ago I never thought my command of the English language would cause any embarrassment…turns out I was wrong. Turns out there is more to the difference between English English and American English than spelling. (Turns out I can throw name in my native language just as well as I can in any foreign one) Standing at the gate with tons of other parents as we waited for our children to be let out of school at the end of the day, I leaned back against the low church wall, stood straight up again and looked over my shoulder saying, “Damn, I wet my pants.”

American English people might, like me, not realize at first why all the parents within hearing distance all turned to stare at me, why the 2 or 3 women I’ve become friends with here looked like they wanted to find a hole to climb into – or push me into it. English English people, like those staring at me like I’d grown an extra head, will at once realize that I’d just implied I’d peed my pants. See, pants over here are underwear. And the things you wear over your underwear are trousers. Which is something someone explained to me once the kids started running out and attention was elsewhere.

Turns out there are more differences than I’d ever imagined. Here there’s even local slang that’s really local. The village we’re in has around 1000 people in it and there are a handful of words that are “village slang”. For example: in our village the word auk’ed (which I’m assuming originates from the word awkward?) means out of sorts and is used for that feeling you get just before you get sick. But I’ve been told that a few miles down the road it doesn’t mean that at all.

When the woman who used to run the local pub heard I’m originally from Zimbabwe, she immediately regaled the group we were with the story of the Zimbabwean girl who’d once worked in the pub and tried to give someone directions. The girl had said, “You go down the road, turn left at the roundabout (read: traffic circle) and then right at the robot (read: traffic light).” I totally got it…the locals…not so much :)

Turns out we’re all speaking the same language but often meaning very different things.

So what is some of your favorite local slang? As someone who grew up in South Africa the word lekker (great – originating from Afrikaans) used to be a part of my vocab. And when my cousin recently met my kids he reminded me of the word scabanger (criminal – not sure from which African language this one originates from)  I also use the word yala (hurry up in Arabic but appropriated by Hebrew) at least 10 times a day. Don’t think I will be using auk’ed anytime soon though :)

Cheers (another fav of mine :)  Used as a toast, to say thanks and to say catch you later)



One Response to “The same but different”

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