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I am much amused by a Hagar the Viking cartoon in which his accomplice Lucky Eddie declares Norwegian girls as being the best. The Norwegian sea bandit responds by declaring that ‘Bulgarian girls are pretty and they’re good cooks.’
Undeterred, the Viking’s hapless helper raises the issue of language: ‘But a Bulgarian girl cannot speak to you!’
Hagar considers this for a moment before brightly replying: ‘And that’s another good thing.’
Having a lady friend whose language is different from one’s own is an enriching experience. I recall such an accomplice in language butchery who was from the Baltic States. When writing, she often sent him happy hags (hugs). She also sent him worm (warm) embraces. His friend’s written endearments were an absolute delight and they would lose much of their charm had she a better understanding of English.
What is described as ‘killing two birds with one stone’ comes out as ‘the farmer who shot two rabbits with one gun.’ When sending a message she says she prefers her friend to wear his shorts because she likes his bear (bare) legs.
When telephoning to say she was on her way, she would typically say, ‘I will be there soon. Please put the cattle on. He cocks the dinners up means he cooks the dinners up – perhaps. Recently she crocheted a hut for her friend’s head.
I once told Lisa that I thought her very plucky. I never realised how close I was to being hand-bagged. My Danish friend was much offended until she checked out its English meaning. In Danish, being plucky has a different implication that I leave to your imagination. On saying goodnight, she did wish me sweat dreams: I hope she wasn’t being suggestive.
A German friend suggested that on this occasion we go to the Pluffin for a meal. I realised he meant The Plough Inn. At the bottom of a Chilean friend’s letter was the instruction; ‘please turn around.’ I did so several times before realising he meant PTO as in ‘please turn the page over.’
Then there was the English language student who asked: ‘Should I have a coma in the middle of this sentence?’ The teacher was taken aback when another student said: ‘Please don’t shoot so many people in my country.’
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‘Could you repeat that very slowly,’ the tutor replied. The student spelt it out for her: ‘Police don’t shoot people in my country very often.’ I am glad that is cleared up. Another explained to her teacher: ‘My mother wants me to marry a good, successful man but I want to marry my boyfriend.’
A student of English was enthusiastic about her progress. She breathlessly observed that if she studied hard, she was sure of graduating in 2011 years. Perhaps the same young lady wrote, ‘we served a nice pig dinner’ after her friends visited for a dinner party. One can hardly blame them. It has been said that all English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
Having been friends for years an elderly couple decided to marry. Having discussed their domestic and financial arrangements the delicate subject is raised. The elderly gentleman asks his soon to be bride how often a ‘physical arrangement’ might be presumed. She replies: ‘Infrequently.’ He pauses for a moment and then asks: ‘Is that one word or two?’
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