This week, our story contest has gotten off to a great start with many entries which have kept us all LOL! It was a difficult choice, but here are our Editor's Picks for the week:
As an Englishman now residing in California I have experienced several occasions where all lines of communication failed. The most memorable happened just after I first relocated, in the early eighties, I had quite the cultural shock. British-English and American-English have so many variations it is comical. There are the obvious ones with which most folks are familiar such as: hood-bonnet, trunk-boot, mail-post, trash-garbage, shopping cart-shopping trolley, drugstore-chemist...and some not as well known.
The mistake I made was when I was preparing to go to school over here in California. I went to a local convenience store and asked, quite innocently, for one rubber. There was an awkward silence, so I asked for one again, smiling cheerfully. The red-faced expression that washed over the face of the old lady behind the counter was priceless, and a little unsettling.
She accused me of being rude -- and asked me to leave the shop. I was confused at her reaction, yet complied. It was later on that day, when I told my father of what had happened, that I realized my error. For you see, back in England what Americans call erasers, we call rubbers.
Of course, a rubber this side of the pond means sometimes entirely different all together - but how was I to know?
I never did return to that shop.
The Indian Toast
This story is much like your sample, but it is absolutely true.
Friends of ours in New York were giving a dinner party in honor of a family visiting from India. There were 14 people at the table and dinner was winding down, when the honored guest stood up and rapped loudly on his glass with a fork. The room grew quiet and he announced, "We are most fed up. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart - and my wife's bottom also!"
Practical Joke in Tokyo
I was working as a Counselor at the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo. I had
been in Japan 4 years. At the time we were also welcoming a new staff
member who spoke little Japanese. His name was Graeme. My assistant at
the time was a stunning Japanese woman in her early 20's named Yoko.
Attractive and a very productive member of our staff. Graeme was settling
into his new home at the Embassy with his wife and young 4 year old boy.
His son was the youngest family member on the grounds of the Embassy - full of life and always running around.
During Graeme's first few days at the Embassy, several staff members did silly pranks to welcome Graeme such as offering him cold coffee, etc... Well, now it was my turn and I thought I would test Graeme's limited knowledge of the Japanese language.
At an official dinner introducing a New Zealand opera singer touring in Japan, a small group of people were slow dancing to a quintet of classical musicians. Graeme asked me if it was appropriate to ask my assistant Yoko for a dance. I assured him it was fine, but he should tell Yoko that his son is very healthy, because she adored his young boy. In Japanese, "musuko ga genki"
Graeme found the courage to ask Yoko to dance and memorized the healthy boy phrase I had taught him. A group of us stood in amusement as Yoko's face turned red as a beet and she stormed off -- her hands in her face, yet still managing a smile with a silly grin. Graeme was shocked and immediately checked himself for any body odor.
Graeme did not know that the phrase in Japanese, "my son is healthy," "musuko ga genki," is a common Japanese expression for boasting about a large erection!
Years later, we still have many laughs about this language prank -- How a seemingly innocent direct translation can also mean something completely different in another language.