Saturday, November 29, 2008

They Came Not In Cars, But In Droves

Droves. “They arrived at the stores in droves this morning.” Yes, they certainly did. But who drives the droves? And how many people to a drove? Is it like an old-fashioned carriage, or a bus?

Reg. U.S. Pat. Off. Otherwise known as Regus Patoff, the world’s most creative inventor, because his name is on so many things. “Pat Pen” was, I used to think, a pen where pats were kept; little did I know it actually meant “patent pending.”

Ped Xing is a yellow traffic sign that makes sense to us. But what would people in another country think? Is this one of those regional things, proper to the U.S., that makes no sense anywhere else?

Do Not Pass. Ok, means keep in a single lane and do not overtake any vehicles. Well, that’s in the United States of USA. But in the Kingdom that is United it means, “Go no further.” That could cause big problems for drivers in the other country.

Keep An Eye On Things, and other idioms, are confusing to foreign speakers of English. I know; I had a Chinese student aide who spoke perfect English, but did not know idioms and looked at me funny when I said, "I'm going to hit the road; please keep an eye on things." It wasn’t until someone translated the Dead Sea Scrolls that we realized the ancients also had their idioms and we were taking literally what they meant as sayings. …Did we really hit roads?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which gives weight to my thoughts and beliefs. You are not bilingual if you are not bi-cultural. You may speak the language, read in that language, listen to the six o'clock news, but if you don't understand ''Hey y'all gonna cut me some slack?'' y'ain't there yet.

CJV....Been dere, done dat.

November 30, 2008 7:27 AM  
Blogger mjr said...

Reminds me of a Groucho Marx bit. (I think it was from Duck Soup) ...

"Look, if you don't like my parties, you can leave in a huff. If that's too soon, leave in a minute and a huff. If you can't find that, you can leave in a taxi."

December 01, 2008 6:24 PM  
Blogger D.B. Echo said...

The Travel Channel had an amusing commercial years ago with an Irish bartender who could not understand the reaction of some visiting Americans when he offered to tell them where the best crack was to be had.

A Norwegian friend has recently switched to posting in Norwegian only, rather than predominantly in English, so I've been forced to resort to the Google translator for help - which, of course, has a terrible time with idioms. ("You have a jaw like a waterfall" apparently means "you never shut up"!) I was amused to learn that "ny kåk" meant "new place to live" and not...well, what it sounds like. So now I'm going to try to use the word kåk in everyday English conversations. "My kåk is huge!" "Say, come over and see my kåk sometime! It's the nicest one in the neighborhood!" "Wow, my kåk is getting old. It really needs some major structural work."

December 05, 2008 12:01 AM  

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