What’s in a word?—Throwback Thursday
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I’m hoping you’ve been reading my blog for a while. And if so you probably know that I was born in China and have only lived in America for a bit over 8 years now. Of course that means that English is not my first language. This has resulted in some interesting conversations over the years. When I first moved here my husband asked if we should get the Chinese channel package on our TV service. But I said no. This would make it too easy and take away my incentive to learn English. Anyone that knows me knows that if anything, I make it harder on myself than I need to! Oh, I still turn on the captions when I watch TV to help make sure I’m getting the plot of the show, but it’s been pretty much total immersion since I got here! One of the things that really messes me up with English is all the words that sound alike. More than once I’ve told my husband to wait while I grab a cat to put on my head! I’m always asking my native English speaking husband why this word is correct or why I can’t use that one. And I’m NEVER happy when the answer is “just because it’s right!” And it doesn’t help when he follows up with “well, that’s the way I’ve always said it!”
My cultural inexperience has even led to some unusual detours in my daily lesson plan at my teaching job. Whenever you learn a foreign language you rarely learn the “important” words; you know; the ones you need when you get cut off in traffic or someone steals the parking spot you’ve been patiently waiting for. And often the word you know may have a perfectly acceptable use but because of the current cultural context it now means something else. This has happened many times and differs from country to country, even if the countries speak the same language. The word “gay” for example used to mean someone who was happy and carefree. Nowadays it usually means something quite different. In my case I got in a bit of trouble when I used the word that rhymes with ditch and means a female dog. My understanding was that this was commonly used to talk about a mean person, especially a woman. After all, I had certainly heard the word on TV a time or two. But when I used it in my middle school class a few years ago I knew something was up by the complete shocked silence and looks of terror on the kid’s faces. I mean these were 8th graders so silence was never an option! At that point, I knew I’d probably be hearing from my Principal so went to talk to her before I went home. As it turned out she had already gotten word about the “word”! Luckily she knew that I was very professional in my work and would have only used questionable language if I didn’t understand that it was a bad choice for the classroom. I’ve been a lot more careful after that and always run potential words past my husband before I use them at work!
It’s not just regular words that give me problems. Numbers can cause issues too. Not the numbers like 1, 2, 3, etc. but numbers like one, two, three. Especially things like thirteen hundred for 1,300. There is NOTHING like that in Chinese. We don’t even have words for million or billion. I guess because China actually spends less than they take in, they don’t have to come up with words to say how broke they are! So it made for an interesting shopping experience when my husband and I had a vacation in San Francisco. We had been working on our old house and with our small budget, had gotten most of our furniture from yard sales, second hand stores or very cheap clearance center items. So when we happened to come across a furniture store with lots of beautiful items, I wanted to take a look. This store had several floors and was jam packed with couches, lamps, chairs, tables and imported rugs that I fell in love with. They would be just perfect for our home! The salesman was following us around and answering questions as I added this piece and that rug to our wish list. This beautiful stuff was unbelievably cheap! It was only something like fifteen hundred dollars and they would ship it all the way from San Francisco to our little town in Michigan! It was such a good deal that I really couldn’t understand why my husband was looking a bit pale. It was only after he told the salesman that we needed some alone time to discuss the deal that he took out some paper and wrote down the number we had gotten to. When I saw the extra zero it all became clear. I mean it wasn’t my fault. To someone who grew up in China, fifteen hundred and fifty thousand sounded pretty darned similar! Our old furniture looked pretty good all of a sudden. We told the salesman sorry and headed for the door. I’m not sure, but as I put my cat on my head and we walked out, I think I heard him say something about a female dog!
| Outfit Details |
Sunglasses:: Chloe [similar here]
Top::JC Penney’s [Similar here]
Clutch :: Michael Kors [Similar here ]
Pink shorts :: Loft [Similar here]
Long vest/shirtdress::Banana Republic [Similar here]
Shoes::G by Guess[Similar here]
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Thursday Fashion Files