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Thread: What's the most embarrassing thing you've said in a foreign language?

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    What's the most embarrassing thing you've said in a foreign language?

    I'm sure we all have a story here.

    I'll begin with an innocuous one. The first time I went to Spain and ordered breakfast, the waiter forgot to bring any butter. I couldn't remember the Spanish word for it, but figured it would be the same as in Italian; and thus I confidently ordered some "burro". The waiters burst out into a hearty collective laugh; while it turned out that I had ordered not "butter", but a "donkey"...

    Another incident was far more humbling since it involved a degree of vulgarity usually foreign to me. It was on a night out with a group of Hungarians, still at the beginning of my learning the language. "Cheers" in Hungarian is egészségedre: egész = whole, egészség = wholeness = health, -ed = your, -re = to, in conclusion: "to your health". Unfortunately, I said "egészsegedre" instead of "egészségedre", and therefore didn't toast "to your whole-ness", but rather – dare I say it – "to your whole arse". – This was an all-guys group, so fortunately, they took it with humour.

    What are your anecdotes of linguistic malfunction?
    Last edited by Sappho; 06-18-2014 at 07:30 PM.

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    Tawaci ki a Gnaska ki Osito Polar's Avatar
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    Nope. Honestly, I really don't have anything like this. One time I did ask an old woman what the word chingar meant. She refused to tell me. I didn't know what it meant, but I figured out it was crude language based on her reaction.

    I do have an embarrassing linguistic moment to share but it involves people speaking differing dialects of American English.

    We were on a road trip from Arlington, Virginia going to southern Florida. I was with a girl I was dating in NY, her mother and her sister. We stopped in a diner in South Carolina and the waitress came over and was speaking with a very thick Deep South accent. It *was* hard to understand her, but girlfriend's mom reacted like the poor woman was speaking Basque or Martian or something. The exchange where she just gave up went something like this.

    "Would y'all be needin' some knaaves?"

    "What?"

    "Y'all need some knaaves?"

    "What are 'knaaves'?"

    "Umm ... you know, knaaves?"

    "Osito's girlfriend, what are 'knaaves'?"

    "I think she means knives."

    "OH KNIVES."

    Then she spoke in the most condescending stereotypical "American speaking to a foreigner" voice with loud, overly precise diction.

    "YES. Please bring us some KNIVES. THANK YOU."

    It was hilariously awkward.
    "I don't have psychological problems." --Madrigal

    "When you write about shooting Polemarch in the head, that's more like a first-person view, like you're there looking down the sight of the gun." --Utisz

    David Wong, regarding Chicago
    Six centuries ago, the pre-Colombian natives who settled here named this region with a word which in their language means "the Mouth of Shadow". Later, the Iroquois who showed up and inexplicably slaughtered every man, woman and child renamed it "Seriously, Fuck that Place". When French explorer Jacques Marquette passed through the area he marked his map with a drawing of a brownish blob emerging from between the Devil's buttocks.

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    A Transient Configuration Sistamatic's Avatar
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    I don't know that I've said anything embarrassing, but for most of my life, the only thing I knew how to say in Spanish was "I'm looking for the man who murdered the beautiful woman in the museum last night." It was my line in a skit in grade school, and because I was shy and didn't want to give the bullies any more ammo, I made sure to memorize the crap out of it. I can rattle it off without thinking to this day.

  4. #4
    long jacket Iina's Avatar
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    First year German, I complained to my Bavarian prof, "Ich bin heiß!"
    He blushed, chuckled to himself and corrected me. It was perhaps particularly funny coming from a buttoned-up Anglican school girl.
    (It doesn't mean "I'm hot" as in temperature, but rather "I'm hot" as in "hot to trot"/horny.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Osito Polar View Post
    Nope. Honestly, I really don't have anything like this. One time I did ask an old woman what the word chingar meant...
    As if that's nothing! Just why did you ask an old lady, of all people?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sistamatic View Post
    I don't know that I've said anything embarrassing, but for most of my life, the only thing I knew how to say in Spanish was "I'm looking for the man who murdered the beautiful woman in the museum last night." It was my line in a skit in grade school, and because I was shy and didn't want to give the bullies any more ammo, I made sure to memorize the crap out of it. I can rattle it off without thinking to this day.
    This sure would be an intriguing phrase to take with you on a Mexican holiday!

    Quote Originally Posted by Iina View Post
    First year German, I complained to my Bavarian prof, "Ich bin heiß!"
    Well, Bavarians are voluptuous people, I'm sure he understood

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    a cantori Perdix's Avatar
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    "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?"

    I've said this three times, and it has only worked once... The other two ended up with a drink in my face or something along those lines...

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    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post
    "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?"

    I've said this three times, and it has only worked once... The other two ended up with a drink in my face or something along those lines...
    That's 1:2 – still an amazing success rate for such a weak line! You must have one hell of a delivery.

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    a cantori Perdix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sappho View Post
    That's 1:2 – still an amazing success rate for such a weak line! You must have one hell of a delivery.
    It's all about what comes before the delivery ; deep conversations about the innate absurdity/chaos in the universe, talking about them, and how their lives are shaping up to be... etc.

    My process is: Subtle > Less Subtle > (check for reciprocation, if so proceed) > Flirting > Diner/Drinks... > (Insert weak line here)

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    Quote Originally Posted by prometheus View Post
    My process is: Subtle > Less Subtle > (check for reciprocation, if so proceed) > Flirting > Diner/Drinks... > (Insert weak line here)
    That explains a lot. I thought the Voulez-vous phrase was the opener!

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    a cantori Perdix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sappho View Post
    That explains a lot. I thought the Voulez-vous phrase was the opener!
    An opener is more of:

    ... that's kind of cute.
    You know what I mean .

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