Monday, March 2, 2015

Travel Link-Up: Lost In Translation

I racked my brain for this month's travel link-up for stories on the theme of "lost in translation" - I really did. I scratched my head, scrolled through emails, recounted dozens of travel experiences ... but no funny/entertaining/bizarre or even mildly amusing anecdotes came to mind.

Well ...

There was the time my mom and I travelled to St. Petersburg and Moscow together (as my college graduation present), having also spent time touring Stockholm and Helsinki, and she continually mispronounced "spasibo" (Russian for "thank you") as "spice bomb". "Spice bomb!" she'd say loudly, beaming as a bowl of soup was placed in front of her at a restaurant. Or, "Spice bomb!" she'd exclaim, upon receiving her ticket for entry into the Winter Palace. Despite repeated attempts to change her pronunciation, I gave up and succumbed to the "spice bomb"-ing that happened nearly every time I was in earshot.

But alas, the mysteries of the "spice bomb" were not enough to carry an entire blog post.

So I decided to think a little "closer to home". I've lived in the UK for over 8 years now, and I'm proud to have kept my American accent (it's something I work on daily). I thought about all the times I've had to put on a fake British accent in order for the automated telephone system at Lloyds Bank to understand me:

Robot voice: "In order to direct your call, please say, in your own words, how we can help you today."

Me (normal American voice): "Using card abroad."

Robot voice: "I'm sorry. I did not understand you. In order to direct your call, please say, in your own words, how we can help you today."

Me (faux British voice): "Using cahhhhddd abrorrrrd."

Robot voice: "Using card abroad. Did I understand that correctly? Please hold, while I transfer you to a member of our team."

Me: (sigh)

And then, it hit me.

I was lying on my stomach on our bed, dangling my legs over the edge and watching an episode of House of Cards (last season, I nearly broke my neck binge-watching back-to-back episodes on my iPad. I seriously almost went to the doctor).

Enter John.

"Wydintchywatchitonthepiksie?" he said, at the door.

"Excuse me?" I asked, my eyes focused on the iPad.

"Wydintchywatchitonthepiksie?" he repeated.

I pressed pause and turned to look at him. "I'm sorry?" I asked again.

"WHY. DON'T. YOU. WATCH. IT. ON. THE. BIG. SCREEN?" he enunciated.

"Oh, thank GOD. Why do you MUMBLE so?" I huffed, and rolled off the bed, heading for our projector in the living room (yes, we've been watching TV and movies on our version of a home cinema ever since, oh, 2009).

Like I said, it hit me. SOMETHING GETS LOST IN TRANSLATION EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Between me and John. It's a combination of his accent (which is pretty much a "standard" English accent - no traces of Geordie, Brummie, or Scouse there) and his tendency to mumble.

(If we ever meet in person, ask me to do an impersonation. It's really good.)

My all-time favorite one is this: back in the day when we lived in Maida Vale and John thought it would be a good idea to "scoot" to Warwick Avenue tube station in the mornings i.e. on a scooter (like, the kind that children use), he decided to invest in one that wasn't, naturally, pink with purple handlebars or one that had Spiderman emblazoned all over it (this was sold on eBay after just under 6 months of ownership).

One morning, when we were lying in bed, and I thought John was reading the news on (as he often does in the morning), he exclaimed, "Mosquitos at Harrods!"

"Mmm ... that's nice, honey," I mumbled, burrowing deeper into the covers. "Is there a breakout or something?" In my semi-dreamlike state, I imagined women in furs screaming and running from a swarm of mosquitos following them from McCartney to McQueen.

"What?" he said, turning towards me. "I said, mosquitos at Harrods!"

"Yes, I know, darling," I said. "There must have been quite a swarm for it to have made headline news."

"MY. SCOOTER. IS. AT. HARRODS," he pronounced. "I. AM. GOING. TO. GO. BUY. IT. TODAY."

"Oh GOD!" I yelled, pulling the pillow over my eyes. "Why did you wake me up to tell me THAT?!"

Or the time he pointed out the window when we were driving along the countryside in Leicestershire.

"Look! A hit-ah-balin!"

"What?" I said.

"A hit-ah-balin!"

"What?" I asked again, still not understanding.

"HIT. AH. BALOOOOONNNN!" he shouted. "You need to get your ears checked."

I squinted out the window at the colorful object disappearing over the horizon.

"OH," I said. "A hot air balloon. UGH, can't you pronounce ANYTHING correctly? And, STOP MUMBLING!"

"I. AM. TRYING." he said, through gritted teeth.

Spice bomb.

This post is part of the travel link-up hosted by fellow bloggers, Rebecca, Emma, Kelly, and Sam. Head over to their blogs to read some hilarious (and, at times, traumatizing) stories and join the link-up yourself!



  1. Replies
    1. CHIP BUTTAAYYYYYYY!!! "Oh, can I have some ketchup? THANKS!" "Oh, um, that's not ..."

  2. Lol! It seems lots of us feel lost in translation even we appear to be speaking the same language! I definitely think Geordie is the hardest accent / dialect to get to grips with!
    Lots of love,

    SilverSpoon London

    1. You thought we were all normal, didn't you Angie? :)

    2. Seriously, Angie ... when I was studying for my MA at York, I took the Eurostar back to London from Paris (where I was visiting John, as he was working there at the time) and, unbeknownst to me, a Newcastle game had just finished and the trains back up to York were FULL of drunk Newcastle fans. I had no idea what they were saying and just assumed that they were French, since I had just gotten off the Eurostar and was a little disoriented. It was a rude awakening.

  3. Um, SO TRUE. Like every single day. This is a boring story you didn't ask to hear but there's a corner shop near us that we go to for milk, etc. sometimes. It says "porn free" in giant letters on the front, so that's how we reference the store. EVERY time Derrick says "Should we just get it at 'porn free'?", I have to ask him what he's talking about. Why? Because he's saying PAWN. And he always talks about a tv show with the word PAWN in the title often, so whatamIsupposedtodo with this?

    1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! That was my actual reaction while reading your story. PAWN! PAWN.

  4. So many yesses on this post (in addition to inviting ones self to popcorn and watchmivviesonthepiksie) the first time my North en husband asked me if I "wanted owt bringing in". Um, what?

    1. Haha, Emma! Yes, I've gotten used to watching movies on the piksie now - I squint when I watch things on a "normal" TV, no matter the size! Oh, I love a good Northern accent. :)

  5. Pahahaha! A lot of lols here. Please can we meet up when I'm back home in April so I can hear your John impression and I can confuse you with my taaaribly British accent. I'm great at charades.

    Polly xx
    Follow Your Sunshine

    1. Um, OBVIOUSLY we have to meet up when you're back in April! Can't wait! xx

  6. I thought I'd be OK as far as understanding people once I moved here, but I still have to say "I'm sorry?" like 10 times a week and I cringe inside each time I say it. Especially when they start to get irritated and over-pronounce each word really slow like I'm wearing a dunce cap. Can someone invent an English-to-English translator? PLS&THKU.

    1. Haha, I am often the same, Gianni!! But I'm getting much better now. My biggest problem understanding people in the UK was during my year studying for my MA in York. I love the Yorkshire accent but had such difficulties adjusting to hearing it!

  7. I just realised that maybe my husband who mumbles all the time may not actually be mumbling?? Is this how our British husbands talk?? (he doesn't have an accent either - just standard British educated London) I always thought he mumbled to drive me crazy. Maybe it isn't personal.

    1. This made me laugh out loud, Shobha! Love that you're married to a fellow mumbler. ;)

  8. I have totally given up on the phone banking services. I don't think I have that bad of an American accent, but I spend way too much time shouting into the phone!! I try to do everything online now

    1. Totally agree, Krista - I do all my banking online, but unfortunately, letting them know that you're out of town isn't an option online with Lloyds, hence my usual struggle! Otherwise I have to deal with fraud calls when I'm trying to enjoy myself on vacation, which is even more annoying ... sigh.


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