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Being a foreigner: harder than it looks

weasel crossing

Uncle B and I were out grocery shopping today and I noticed something I guess I’m going to have to get used to. At the sound of my foreign accent, people start and turn to look at me (if nothing else, that tells you how far out of London we are).

It’s not so bad; when they realize what they just did, most people give me a sheepish smile.

I work with a man who is missing the littlest two fingers of his right hand. I didn’t know it until I shook his hand and then — it was completely involuntary — I started and stared down at our handshake. It felt so indefinably…wrong. He must get tired of that look, day after day. Me, I just get grinned at.

Many and high-larious are the zany miscommunications between Weasel and Badger. Like this here thing. The sign up there. It was part of my Christmas loot.

B: It’s Chinese, I guess.
S: What?
B: Weasel zhing.
S: You’re pulling my leg, right?
B: Well, I thought it might be pronounced Weasel ching, but I looked up all the variations I could think of and didn’t find it.

He thought it was a slogan, like “grrl power” or “ban the bomb” or “weasels rule, badgers drool.” Poor bastard; he’ll buy me anything with a weasel on it. Most of which seems to come from California.

For the record, they spell it out here: Crossing. It’s all part of their “use more stuff than strictly necessary on signage” campaign. Way Out for Exit. Give Way for Yield.


Comment from porknbean
Time: December 27, 2007, 8:22 pm

Did you mean you got a little weasel zhing in your Chingmas loot?

Comment from Muslihoon
Time: December 27, 2007, 8:29 pm

“X” is pronounced as “sh” in Mandarin Chinese.

There is a thing nearby named “Caribou Xing”. I thought it was named after some Native American Chineseman, “Caribou Shing”.

Comment from porknbean
Time: December 27, 2007, 9:13 pm

Hmm…they prolly spell it out ‘crossing’ there so as not to offend the easily offended you-know-whos with a cross ‘x’.

Comment from Pupster
Time: December 27, 2007, 10:04 pm

Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.

I worked with a guy who had what looked like lobster claws instead of fingers. He shoved those bad boys right out there for handshakes, too. I fought off a strong desire to recoil in horror at that sensation, and didn’t hide it on my face. He laughed. I wanted to get out of there.

The drive-up ATM at my bank has an British lady’s voice, she sounds efficient, sophisticated, and a little sexy. I can’t imagine that our friends across the pond feel the same way about my mid-western twang.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: December 27, 2007, 10:19 pm

Pup – every time I see “fragile” I think of that phrase, and that movie. And Italian.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: December 27, 2007, 11:17 pm

I never knew that Ped Xing was Chinese. Good to know…

There’s RR Xing, too. Probably an author.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: December 27, 2007, 11:38 pm

I do the same thing with the word facade because of My Fellow Americans.
I just looked up (Jin) Xing and he’s a transexual dancer from China. I guess he was the first person to have a sex change in China. Who knew?

Comment from Dawn
Time: December 27, 2007, 11:39 pm

Anonymous is me, if you care.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: December 28, 2007, 1:01 am

Dawn – I didn’t see MFA (*hangs head in shame*)

How did they mispronounce facade in it?

Then there’s Slim Pickens butchery of the word “unique” in Blazing Saddles.

…and I have saved you from the unenviable burden of being the thread-killer. Does it count to declare *LAST!*?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 28, 2007, 8:21 am

I had an uncle who was rather slow (just the one, dear?). He is said to have walked by a notice board and mumbled, “N-O-T not, I-C-E ice…any damn fool can tell that’s not ice!”

I don’t know how old he was. I’ve always been afraid to ask.

Comment from Nosmo King
Time: December 28, 2007, 12:01 pm

Ah, the dangers of being a foreigner who think he or she has some grasp of what’s going on. Although I have many examples, the one I’m still living down is the time when I was drinking with my brother-in-law, his wife (my wife’s sister) and Mrs. Lokki. We were having a fine time and joking and teasing. Both Mrs. Lokki and her sister are, ahem, clear-minded women with both strong opinions and stupid husbands although fortunately with the grace to generally be nice about it in public.

In any case, I wanted to complain to my brother-in-law that Mrs. Lokki was a bit cheeky at times, and to ask him (since he’d been married to her sister for some time) for some advice on how to handle her.

Not having the vocabulary in my brain for such a thought, I reached for my trusty Japanese-English dictionary and came up the the word “Ochaku”, and promptly suggested that my wife was indeed one, and asked what I could do about it.

We didn’t have to call the ambulance, but my brother-in-law damn near died laughing. “Ochaku”, it seems doesn’t exactly translate as “Cheeky”; it translates as “Impertinent Bitch”.

He told me that my wife’s sister was exactly the same and that -good luck fella- there wasn’t much he’d been able to do about it.

Odd how the girls didn’t think it was as funny. I’m still hearing about it, but my brother-in-law and I pretty well bonded that night.

Comment from jwpaine
Time: December 28, 2007, 12:20 pm

It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that xing.

Comment from Dawn
Time: December 28, 2007, 1:50 pm

My husband and I watch My Fellow Americans every election.
It might not be all that funny, but it’s tradition for us. We laugh and laugh.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: December 28, 2007, 2:11 pm

Ah-ha! Now I know. Thanks, Dawn.

Comment from armybrat
Time: December 29, 2007, 4:37 pm

almost as bad as being a southern belle in yankee territory! I just smile and make sure to say “ya’ll” at least once in the conversation! I have them swooning by the evening’s end!

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