jeudi 26 septembre 2013

My language gaffe - in English!

Those of you who live in a country that speaks a language that is different from your mother language know all about language gaffes.

Every native English speaker living in France knows about the preservative/préservatif false friend. Never, never make the mistake of telling your French hosts at the dinner table that you think American food is full of condoms and that you prefer French food because it's not full of condoms.

But what if your language gaffe wasn't in French, but in English? It's kind of hard to imagine when your native language is English. But it happened to me. 

So, without futher ado, I present my British language gaffe. Enjoy! 

Cardiff Castle in Wales. Author of photo: Den Nation.

It is my second year of university in the UK. I am going down the stairs and am in between classes. My teacher stops me and asks: 

Male teacher: "I heard you talking in class about how you have a really important appointment later today and that you don't have enough time to make it over there on your bicycle after your last class. I'm heading to that area after your last class so I can drive you there."

(Note: This teacher had a really relaxed attitude and a friendly approach with his students. He was the type of guy that would say hello to his students in the supermarket and drive them home. He was always up for a chat and a cup of tea. He had absolutely no ulterior motives in his offer.)

Me: "Oh, thanks, that's really nice of you, but Dave (not his real name) is going to give me a ride in his car." 


Later, once I am in Dave's (my classmate) car. 

Me: "The teacher was really quiet today after I told him that you were going to give me a ride."

British Dave bursts out laughing.

Me: "What?" I am slightly annoyed. 

Dave: "You basically told him that we were going to have sex in my car." 

Me: "I did not!" Now I am really annoyed.

Dave: "Yes, you did. 'To give somebody a ride' is British slang for having sex."

I am just gobsmacked. And really ticked off. Please somebody just open a hole and swallow me up. How could I not know this?

Me: "So what was I supposed to say?"

Dave: "You should have used 'giving a lift' instead or something along those lines."

Needless to say, I couldn't look the teacher in the eye for weeks afterwards.

Edit: Read my comment to Crystal about another British language gaffe I committed. 

13 commentaires:

  1. I totally would have said something like that too! I mean, how are we supposed to know? I still can't believe British people casually refer to cigarettes as "fags"...

    1. Your comment reminds me... here another British language gaffe I forgot about.

      It was way back in 2002 and I was fresh off the boat so I didn't know anything about British vocabulary. I was sitting in a pub with a group of British people.

      British person: "I'm going out to find some fags."

      I'm sitting there in shock as, after all, for a Canadian the word fag is derogatory.

      Me: "So you're gay?"

      Everyone bursts out laughing. I felt like the entire pub was laughing.

    2. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par l'auteur.

    3. One more thing: I'll never forget the shock I felt when I discoverd that British people eat faggots.

      Yes, I'm not kidding, I went to the supermarket and found boxes of faggots waiting to tempt me.

      Faggots are made out of scrapes of meat so they kind of carry their name well. That made me laugh.

    4. Note to readers: I didn't mean to say that homosexual people are like scrapes of meat, but that a faggot for a North American is a politically incorrect word, so the fact that British faggots are made out of scrapes of meat kind of keeps with the derogatory tone of it all. I don't know if I've made myself understood.

      For me:
      British faggots = bad (unhealthy) food
      American faggots = bad word

  2. Wow..I had not heard the give ride one before and I thought I knew all the Brit slang difference. Hours spent watching Brit tv on PBS in the states :)

    I couldn't get a lorry so I put it in the boot and then took the lift to my flat.

    1. I know that we speak the same language, but there are so many differences between North American English and British English. I wish that I has used my time living in the UK more wisely and learned more British vocabulary and grammar. Also, I should have learned more about British culture and politics. I really regret that now.


    Very useful information for this fellow Ottawan moving to the UK in a few days:)

    1. Are you moving permanently? I'd love to hear about your adventures - you should create a blog! Where are you moving to?

      There are so many things to learn about British English, including the spelling. In Canada I grew up thinking that we used British spelling as when I was at school the teachers always boasted about how we used the Oxford Dictionary as our reference and not Webster's Dictionary, but now I know that that is not entirely true. How many Canadians write programme and not program, enrolment instead of enrollment and kerb instead of curb? So if you are like me, meaning you are going over there with the idea that you spell everything like British people, you are in for a surprise. I am not being condescending, I just thought you should know (as someone who had my spelling corrected when I was a student in the UK).

  4. I didn't know that one! I know quite a bit of BE (from reading British novels and magazines, like "fag", "take-away" instead of "take-out", etc.). But I didn't know that slang expression!

    Funny. Now Australian English was really a foreign language to me.

    1. There are so many things I still need to learn about British English - never mind Australian English, which is such a mystery to me. And South African English...

      I know that in Australia you should never use the verb root because it is their slang word for sex. I wonder if when they say, "I rooted for him," it has a sexual connotation?

      I thought that I had a pretty good handle on British slang at the time I learned about "give me a ride". I had spent more than 2 years living in Britain at the time this happened. That just goes to show just how languages can be really complex and that there are so many different ways of speaking the same language. This is really interesting to me. I'd love to go to Australia one day and learn more about their expressions. There are so many things I want to learn...

  5. This happens to me all the time in Australia. LIke all the time. The amount of times I think we're talking about one thing and then it turns out we're actually talking about something else...I can't even count them.

    1. I know you've talked a little bit about it on your blog, but I would love to see a post devoted to Australian vocabulary/grammar structure/slang, etc. That is something that I know so little about.

      I'd love to go to Australia and commit my own Australian language gaffes!