for chinese new year they get all these famous actors and comedians together and they do a lil show and one of the comedians was like “i was in a hotel in america once and there was a mouse in my room so i called reception except i forgot the english word for mouse so instead i said ‘you know tom and jerry? jerry is here’
jerry is here
my chinese teacher once shared this story in class about someone who went to the grocery to buy chicken, but they forgot the english word for it, so they grabbed an egg, went to the nearest sales lady and said “where’s the mother”
When I was a teenager, we went to Italy for the summer holidays. We are German, neither of us speaks more than a few words of Italian. That didn’t keep my family from always referring to me when they wanted something translated because “You’re so good with languages and you took Latin”. (I told them a hundred times I couldn’t order ice cream in Latin, they ignored that.) Anyway, my dad really loved a certain cheese there, made from sheep’s milk. He knew the Italian word for ‘cheese’ – formaggio – and he knew how to say ‘please’. And he had already spotted a little shop that sold the cheese. He asked me what ‘sheep’ was in Italian, and of course, I had no idea. So he just shrugged and said “I’ll manage” and went into the shop. 5 mins later, he comes out with a little bag, obviously very pleased with himself.
How did he manage it? He had gone in and said “'Baaaah’ formaggio, prego.”
I was done for the day.
This makes me feel better about every conversation I had in both Rome and Ghent.
I once lost my husband in the ruins of a French castle on a mountain, and trotted around looking for him in increasing desperation. “Have you seen my husband?” I asked some French people, having forgotten all descriptive words. “He is small, and English. His hair is the color of bread.”
I did not find my husband in this way.
In rural France it is apparently Known that one brings one’s own shopping bags to the grocery store. I was a visitor and had not been briefed and had no shopping bag. I saw that other people were able to conduct negotiations to purchase shopping bags, but I could not remember the word for “bag.”
“Can I have a box that is not a box,” I said.
The checkout lady looked extremely tired and said, “Un sac?” (A sack?)
Of course. A fucking sack. And so I did get a sack.
I once was at a German-American Church youth camp for two weeks and predictably, we spoke a whole lot of English.
When I phoned my mom during week two I tried to tell her that it was a bit cold in the sleeping bag at night. I stumbled around the word in German because for the love of god, I could remember the Germwn word for sleeping bag.
“Yeah so, it’s like a bag you sleep in at night?”
“And my mother must probably have thought I lost my mind. She just sighed and was like ‘So, a Schlafsack, yes?”
Which is LITERALLY Sleeping sac … The German word is a basically a one on one translation of the English word and I just… I failed it. At my mother tongue. BIG
My former boss is Italian and she ended up working in a lab where the common language was English. She once saw an insect running through the lab and she went to tell her colleagues. She remembered it was the name of a famous English band so she barged in the office yelling there was a rolling stone in the lab…
I’m Spanish and have been living in the UK for a while now. I recently changed jobs and moved to a new office which is lost somewhere in the Midlands’ countryside. It’s a pretty quaint location, surrounded by forest on pretty much all sides, and with nice grounds… full of pheasants. I was pretty shocked when I drove in and saw a fucking pheasant strolling across the road. Calm as you please.
That afternoon I met up with some friends and was talking about the new job, and the new office, and for the life of me I couldn’t remember the English word for pheasants. So I basically ended up bragging to my friends about “the very fancy chickens” we had outside the office.
Best thing is, everyone understood what I meant.
I love those stories so much…
Picture a Jewish American girl whose grasp of the Hebrew language comes from 10+ years of immersion in Biblical and liturgical Hebrew, not the modern language. Some words are identical, while others have significantly evolved.
She gets to Israel and is riding a bus for the very first time.
American: כמה ממון זה? (”How much money?” but in rather archaic language)
Bus Driver: שתי זוזים. (”Two zuzim” – a currency that’s been out of circulation for millenia)
I am officially screamlaughing at my desk from that last one OH MY
Does everyone know the prime minister who promised to fuck the country?
So in Biblical Hebrew the word for penis and weapon are the same. There is a verb meaning to arm, which modern Hebrew semanticly drifted into “fuck”: i.e. give someone your dick.
The minister was making a speech while a candidate, bemoning the state of the world. “The Soviet Union is fucking Egypt. Germany is fucking Syria. The Americans are fucking everyone. But who is fucking us? When I am prime minister, I will ensure we are fucked!”
What the hell Biblical Hebrew.
Just guessing: The path from something like “give someone a blade” to “give someone a blade, if you know what I mean ;)” is probably not that difficult or unlikely.
^Given that the Latin word for sheath (like, for a sword) is literally “vagina”, I can verify that this metaphor is a time-honored one.
Oh yeah and one time my Latin professor was at this conference in Greece and his flight was canceled, so he needed to extend his hotel stay by one more night.
Except he doesn’t speak a lick of modern Greek, and the receptionist couldn’t speak English. Or French. Or German. Or Italian. (He tried all of them.)
Finally, in a fit of inspiration, he went upstairs and got his copy of Medea in the original Greek (you know, the stuff separated from modern Greek by two and a half thousand years). He found the passage where Medea begs Jason to let her stay for one more day, went downstairs, and read it to the receptionist.
She laughed her head off, but she gave him the extra night.