Have you ever had a slip of the tongue? It is easy to get tongue tangled, and things do not always come out right. That tendency multiplies when learning a new language. Today, I am going to share some language bloopers that some different missionaries have shared. I hope you enjoy them!
Even when going from one English speaking country to another, there are things that are said differently. The countries which were colonies of England use different words for things than an American does. For instance, in countries with a British influence, a truck is called a lorry; a cookie is called a biscuit; the hood of a car is called the bonnet; the trunk of a car is called the boot; a trailer is called a caravan; fries are called chips; clothespins are called clothes pegs; a pacifier is a dummy; a trashcan is a dustbin, and the garbage collector is a dustman; an elevator is a lift; underwear are called pants, and pants are called trousers. We are in Ghana, and many of these British words are used here. Imagine the surprised look on people's faces when talking about women not wearing pants – they are thinking underwear and not pants!
Our missions teacher in college told a story about himself when he was working in Australia. A man came up to a little girl who was crying and asked, "What is the matter? Did someone pinch your lollies?" Our teacher said he wanted to throw the man out of the church for saying such a thing. But, he found out that "pinch" is to steal and “lollies” are hard candy.
One lady who had just arrived in England went to the doctor. She was pregnant, and she had a cold that she could not get rid of. When she told the doctor that she was sick, the doctor thought she meant that she was vomiting. They were about to admit her to the hospital; all the while she was trying to get them to understand that she just had a cold. The doctor then asked her if she was just not feeling well or if she was vomiting. She learned that day that there was a difference between “being sick” and “not feeling well.”
In Japan, a common mistake for a new missionary is to call a person a carrot instead of a person. Carrot is “nin-jin.” Person is “nin-gen.” Right in the middle of the serious part of a sermon, the missionary said, “All carrots are sinners!” The people started to chuckle. He said it again with a little more emphasis. His wife told him what he was saying; he corrected the mistake with a bow and an apology and continued the message.
Another common mistake in Japan is asking someone to marry you instead of asking them to read something. The two phrases are only one syllable different. Many the first time missionary has handed out a tract and asked someone to marry them instead of asking them to read the tract.
In another country, a lady was trying to say that she planted cilantro (dhuniya) in her garden; instead she told her neighbor that she had planted the world (dhanya) in her garden. Then, she told someone that the fish (macha) growing in the garden was getting very tall; she meant to say corn (makai). She told the ladies at church that a big rain storm came in their house through her purse (jhola) instead of through the window (jyaal). Her husband stopped to help a drunk man on the street. He meant to ask him if he had been drinking, but he told the man that he had been drinking. The drunk man said, “Me too!” and tried to get the missionary to go to the bar with him.
Another lady was trying to pay the cook a compliment. She meant to say that the food was delicious, but she said that the urine tasted great. The main problem was that they were eating at the home of her in-laws.
A missionary to Mexico told the ladies in her class that she keeps her watermelons under the bed instead of her shoes. Her husband offered to “hit” a vendor instead of offering to “pay” him.
A lady in Brazil told the people that the sun was in her eggs instead of her eyes. Instead of saying that she wanted to do a study on the pious woman, she said that she would like to do a study on the gassy woman. It was announced that there would be a dinner for all of the carrots instead of the ladies. All of the ladies and their dogs (instead of their daughters) were invited. She meant to say that she lived in the basement of a church for six weeks, but she said that she died in the basement of a church for six weeks.
Next week, we will be sharing some more language bloopers from different parts of the world. If you have any language bloopers that you would like to share with us, please e-mail them to me at email@example.com. Please include the name of each family member, your field of service, and a picture of your family if possible.
Until next week, keep your sunny side up!