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Courtybean's avatar

Have you ever heard anyone from a different country use a ‘slang’ word or phrase and had no idea what they meant by it?

Asked by Courtybean (514points) November 20th, 2009

When travelling or speaking to someone from a different country, have you ever heard them use a phrase or word to describe something or a situation and had NO idea what they meant? What was the word/phrase they used and what was the meaning behind it? Or, is there a particular word/phrase that you use that people have been confused by?

The lovely @casheroo inspired me to pitch this question to you after a misunderstanding when I used an Aussie term or ‘slang’ on another thread. I used the term “paid-out” when describing how someone might say something derogatory to another person.

In my country we use the term “paid-out” when describing how someone or something might be: picked on/insulted/put down/criticised etc. For example: Sam was ‘paid-out’ by his peers because he looked like a fool when he tripped over his own feet.

Being Australian, we have many slang words/phrases like ‘banged-up’ meaning someone is pregnant. Being ‘out-in-the-sticks’ means to be in the middle of nowhere and to ‘bail’ means that that you have to leave. Similarly, to ‘bail’ on someone means that you’re not going to be able to make it to whatever event you were supposed to attend with them.

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49 Answers

gemiwing's avatar

We use bail and the sticks here in the US too. Hmm pretty much anyone that speaks Cockney- can’t understand a damn word of it. If it rhymes then I’m out.

Dog's avatar

Once a handsome English guy told me he would be “Coming round to knock me up”
My first thought wanted something entirely different- but he only wanted a ride to work.

Courtybean's avatar

@gemiwing – Ah, I didn’t know this. A Canadian friend of ours didn’t know what to “bail” meant.

We also used to confuse her all the time by saying “I’m tired-as!” or “I’m hungry-as!” or “I’m drunk-as!” She kept saying “I don’t get it? As? AS what?!” and we used to laugh and say… “I dunno… just ‘as’!”

@Dog – HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I would have been a little unsure at first!

Sarcasm's avatar

I still don’t get what the British word “daft” means.

FishGutsDale's avatar

Hahahah good question Court! There are a few that i can think of…The Canadians laughed their ass off when i told them i would “skull this drink”, i meant i would drink it all in one go…There meaning of “to skull” is oral sex! Needless to say I didn’t use that again around them!

@Sarcasm Daft means Silly, stupid, crazy etc.

troubleinharlem's avatar

I’ve always wanted to know what cheeky meant.

I have a lot of international friends, and they’re like sponges. xD

My favorite: ‘what in world?’ and ‘can we watch tiffany breakfast?’

Courtybean's avatar

@FishGutsDale: Dale- I had no idea that skull meant something completey different in Canada!! Yikes!!

@troubleinharlem- cheeky can either be used in two different contexts. It’s a term most commonly used by the English I believe.

Firstly cheeky can mean either being naughty/sly/sneaky for example if a child has taken a lolly out of the jar without asking his mother might say to him “That was very cheeky of you!”
In can be used in a sexual context. E.g. If you made a sexual advance towards someone in a public place someone might say “You’re being a bit cheeky!” as in a bit dirty/raunchy/saucey/promiscuous.

Actually…. I’ve though of another context in which it is being used- If you said something to someone with the intention of being a smart-arse or in a sarcastic fashion or your answering someone back. The respondant might say that you were being “cheeky” meaning you were you’re being defiant or smart by responding in this way.

The last two, I’ve never heard of!!

Courtybean's avatar

One of my gf’s is English and she said that when she was in Bristol, she thought it was hilarious that they would say “Where you to?” In a really thick accent. More like “Wheee-rr yeh-ooo tooo?” which “means where are you?” apparently. She said they would be on the phone saying to each other “Where you to? No you stay there and I’ll come where you to!”

Sariperana's avatar

When i was in england i had a guy tell me that he was going to ‘Get me Wankered’ i had no idea and felt obliged to act delightfully insulted… until he elaborated and i discovered that it just meant pissed (as in drunk) – ohhh is that another aussie one coming out?!?

Courtybean's avatar

Sure is @Sariperana!! Good work!!

here is a list of some more that we “apparenlty” use…. I’ve never used half of them b4 but I’m sure some of the “yobbos” (another one of ours) do.
@FishGutsDale- check out “Apple eaters”- very appropriate to the tread b4! Lol.

YARNLADY's avatar

An Australian once wrote to me that he got a gift at a ‘casket’ shop, which turned out to be a store that sells music boxes and jewelry boxes. Here, a ‘casket’ shop sells funeral supplies.

FishGutsDale's avatar

@Courtybean I have never ever heard of Tasmanians referred to as Apple eaters, they’ve been called alot but never that…hahaha Have you?

rooeytoo's avatar

I have spent a lot of time in confused ignorance of what people are talking about since I moved here 11 years ago. Not only that I have caused myself much embarrassment by my frequent use of fanny and root, which have entirely different connotations in oz than they do in good ole USA.

I am never sure how to take it when someone calls me a septic tank, although I have been assured it is not necessarily an insult, hehehe.

One of my favorites though was a story about the milko and the garbo meeting for smoko at the servo in the arvo!

FishGutsDale's avatar

Hahaha @rooeytoo thats ozzy ockerism for you. Shorten a word and chuck an O on the end and bobs your uncle. Whenever i’ve called someone a septic tank i meant it badly. They were full of Sh*t! so check up on that! hahaha

rooeytoo's avatar

@FishGutsDale – It has been total strangers who have called me septic so I didn’t take it personally. But I have tried and tried to come up with something similar for “aussie” but I just can’t think of one!

Pazza's avatar

Please find below all the letters in the scouse (aka Liverpool) alphabet:
A – Scouse example – a’a’a’a’a Canadian example – aye
D – Scouse example – de’doo’doh’don-de-doh’ English translation – They do though don’t they though. Also for the three D’s ‘dis’ ‘dat’ & ‘dee-udda’ translation – ‘this’ that’ & ‘the other’ (probably the most used letter in the Scouse alphabet.
F – Scouse example – ‘Ferry, cross d’merzie’ (from the song of the same name)
L – is for ‘La’ as in ‘Aaarrrite la’ (scouse greeting)
M – Scouse example – ‘Mo-fo!’ (insult) and ‘ma’ as in ‘me-ma’ (mother)
N – Scouse example – ‘Na’ as in ‘no’
P – most used in the angry go away phrase ‘PISS OFF’
Q – wot ya stand in!
R – As in ‘r-a’ or ‘r-a la’ translations – ‘what did you do that for’ & ‘oh fa-fucksake’
S – usually just the first letter pertaining to purging ones colon! or laying a cable
T – is for swearing only example ‘TWAT’
W – is for ‘wonga’ translations cash, money, green.
Z – when your asleep example ‘givinit Zeds’

Pazza's avatar

It means silly or stupid.
Don’t be daft
Don’t be stupid
Don’t be silly
Don’t act stupid etc…...

Nice one la.

Pazza's avatar

Just call them stinkin abbo’s (they don’t like that!)
Or say ‘frow anava shrimp on the barbie’

Ps. a septic tank in England is a tank full of excrement buried in a field.
I’m pretty sure its an insult mate.

Dats fuckin mint da laaaaaaa…..

Courtybean's avatar

@FishGutsDale & @rooeytoo “Im just gunna hang with me mates Steve’o and Dave’o” Thats another one I hate we say “me” instead of “my.” Or ever worse when people refer to “me mrs.” I hate when guys refer to their S.O (regardless of whether they’re married or not) as their Mrs!

Courtybean's avatar

@Pazza- maybe if you have a death wish!!

@rooeytoo- You’re living in Darwin right? I think I remember reading that you were walking down Mitchell st the other day right?

janbb's avatar

To “knock someone up” means entirely different things in Britain and the US.

English kids laughed at me in the 1970s when I went to Britain and said I had a “shag” haircut.

I also got laughed at by friends when I didn’t understand what “PTO” meant written on a page in a joke.

(I got laughed at a lot in England. It was o.k.)

Kayak8's avatar

One of my friends took her English mother and the mother’s Scots friend out to dinner at a cafeteria popular with the older set. Upon spying some kind of pudding with raisins in it, my friend’s mother exclaimed that she “hadn’t had a spotted dick in some time and was looking forward to it” and her friend agreed. My friend about croacked . . .

KatawaGrey's avatar

I seem to have a lot of trouble with the word piss in its various incarnations. My second night in England, a friend’s little brother said something about “taking the piss” and I had no idea what he meant. I’m still not entirely sure but I think it’s something to do with making fun of someone.

Same trip: I was telling someone about how pissed I was and they were very confused because there wasn’t any alcohol around. Naturally this lead to a whole bunch more confusion wherein finally I was able to convey that I was angry rather than drunk.

Pazza's avatar

Have you ever seen Young Guns?
Billy is asked round the dinner table why he killed the man, he replies, ‘He was hackin on me’ I think its the same thing.
An yes its making fun of, but in the laughin at ya kinda way, not with ya.
Also Pissed means Bladdered, sorry drunk. Pissed Off means Pissed…....
Any more I can help you with?

KatawaGrey's avatar

@Pazza: I’m American so when I say pissed I mean pissed off. In certain specific contexts when I say pissed I mean pants shitting drunk aha, more really silly slang. Thank you for clarifying taking the piss.

Pazza's avatar

Have to watch your context when your in a biker bar on a lonely highway then. haha

nebule's avatar

I heard someone that lives two doors down from me use the phrase… “thas gowin fort de-hang” which roughly translated I later found out meant… “I’m going for a shower…” we were in a pub at the time.. it was all very confusing

rooeytoo's avatar

@Courtybean – I live a couple of hundred kliks from Darwin but go in every couple of weeks for a taste of civilization!

Pazza's avatar

Wot-fut-doo mucka :-)

Sounds English, Lancastrian.
The slang word hangin was used to describe something smelly which I think pertains to the old method of selling meat outside a butchers shop, hense the phrase ‘that meats hangin’ or ‘thats hangin’ so going for a ‘de-ang’ would be to de-smellify ones self.
Thanose sithe.

nebule's avatar

@Pazza OH MY!!!! I actually understood you too.. that’s scary… xx

JLeslie's avatar

All I have to do is travel to another part of my own country and I hear expressions I have never heard before. I think the south has more than any other part of the states.

In Raleigh, NC they use “might could” I think it means they are able? Like, “I might could go to the store tonight.”

My husband was thrown the other day when a sales person said he could give him the “kinfolk price.” I had to explain that kinfolk means family.

But really for me the funniest and most endearing is when people from foreign countries, especially if English is there second language screw up an American saying, I just love that. My husband does it quite often. He says dumbwit instead of dimwit (he will just never get that right) and dong ding, instead of ding dong; and other sayings I just can’t think of right now.

JLeslie's avatar

An Iranian friend of mine, when her family first left Iran they went to England, then eventually to America. She was in in class in Jr. High and needed an eraser so outloud she asked, “does anyone have a rubber?” Which I guess is the word for eraser in England, but here in America it means a condom. Needless to say many people in the class giggled and she was mortified when she found out what she had said.

Kayak8's avatar

I had a neighbor from Scotland who asked me if I was going to replace my “siding.” As I was remodeling the INSIDE of a room, I looked at him quizically and he pointed at the baseboards.

JLeslie's avatar

This might be mentioned above?

Potato chips in the states are potato crisps in the UK
French fries in the states are Chips in the UK
Biscuits is used for cookie and biscuits in the UK
Lift in UK is Elevator in the US

Val123's avatar

I get tickled at the English word “loo”! Don’t know why!

Courtybean's avatar

@JLeslie- many children in Aus still call erasers, rubbers also. In saying that, I’ve changed from calling it a rubber because some of my older students have cottoned on!

Is Aus potato chips are crisps
French fries are also chips over here (actually we pretty much just use the word chip for everything- crisps/french fries/thick cut hot chips)
A biscuit or bikkie is a cookie (on that note I don’t understand why you guys serve “biscuits” up with everyone. They remind me of scones and don’t think they are appropriate with half of the meals I’m eating. lol)
and we also call and elevator a lift.

I’ll never forget the first time I was in the States and my sis and I had just orderded some chips for lunch at San Diego zoo. Boy, were we mighty disappointed when they gave us our crisps and tomato sauce (ketchup- which we had also orderded.)

Every time I go over there I also have a LOT of trouble ordering a glass of water!

JLeslie's avatar

@Courtybean Why trouble ordering water? What do you mean serve biscuits up with everyone? Did you mean serve them with everything? I live in the south now and I am annoyed that everything is on a flippin’ biscuit (not the cookie the bread) here. What happened, to English muffins, bagels, rye bread. It varies so much in the states, we are such a big country.

Or, I was just thinking are you using biscuit to mean cracker?

Here is a picture of an American Biscuit, lets make sure we are talking about the same thing LOL.

Val123's avatar

@JLeslie Yah! Waiting for the answer on problem ordering water! And while we’re at it, @Courtybean would you have any insight as to why ketchup is sometimes labeled “Fancy”, as in some ketchups are labeled “fancy” and some aren’t…..just sounds like a British thing. Wanted to ask the Q, but I’m out!

Courtybean's avatar

@JLeslie & @Val123 I have trouble ordering water because of my accent. You and I say water in VERY different ways. When ordering a glass of water the waitress never has any idea what I’m asking for. If I was to type how we say water phonetically to you it would sound like wh-aw-t-a. Try putting it together. I struggled trying to spell it out so you could understand. The problem lies this ‘arrrr’ sound. When Americans say water, to us it sounds like “wh-arrr-der.” kinda get my drift?

@JLeslie- I believe in the conversation you have found another communication error when you asked me what I meant by “serve up.” You were on the money- it just means to serve with. We say “Can you go and serve up dinner?” meaning can you get it ready/serve it. It doesn’t necessary mean we put it ‘up’ onto anything. Lol.

And no- I didn’t mean crackers, I did mean biscuits (your version of a biscuit.) on that note though, there always seems to be either crackers or a biscuit with your meal.

I think you’ve got it all mixed up! Lol. Over here we don’t serve crackers with soup, we serve very crusty bread (similar to a biscuit.) and your biscuits tastes like scones to me!

I have to say, I hate the bread (any kind including biscuits) in the US! It’s sweet and packed with sugar it feels like I’m having a cake or pastry rather than a sandwich! Are biscuits even considerded a type of bread? Also- I Country has no idea what the fascination is with bagels!

@Val123 I’m not actually British, Im from Australia :) However…. I believe I might be able to answer your question 4 you. I think that some keychups ate labelled as “fancy” because over there and also here in Aus, we don’t really use “ketchup.” Instead, we have tomato sauce which is basically the same thing (a sauce made on a tomato base,) however, the both taste completely different! Ketchup isn’t as popular (is generally only used at mcdonalds in burgers) as tomato sauce. Because of this, I believe it is labelled “special” not necessarily because it’s better/different to normal ketchup but is more of a marketing ploy perhaps? People might assume that it’s of “better” quality or is just seen as a fancier topping than regular tomato sauce. :)

I appologise if my response is riddled with typos! It’s 2am, I just got home from the Britney Spears concert and I’m responding on my iPhone which is never an easy task. Plus it’s practically impossible to check your work!

Dog's avatar

@Courtybean he he he… I have done what you did above!
Damn iPhones! ;)

Courtybean's avatar

How on earth did a manage to run a line through half of my response?

Val123's avatar

@Courtybean Wow. I gotta get to Australia or Britian! (BTW, also, I think some people are better at deciphering accents than others. I’m pretty good at it.)

Val123's avatar

@Courtybean LOL! You darn Aussies are SO hard to understand! :) (I’ve done it! You were trying to do small letters but you probably only put one dash on one of this sides, instead of 2, so you wound up with -this—)

JLeslie's avatar

@Courtybean Where have you been in the states? Everything you say makes me think you have been in the southern states, and I complain about American Bisuits (I agree similar to a scone) and the bread here also, I complain A LOT. Places like Detroit and the North Eastern States have decent bread, more European style, The biscuits are frequently found at seafood restaurants and some chain restaurants. Talking about chain restaurants there are many that serve rolls that are covered in sweet something-ugh. It’s like dessert. Many of us (people who came from or live in parts of my country where the ethnic backgrounds are Italian, German, Polish, and other parts of Europe and we are only 2 to 4th generation American) are critical of these things also.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Courtybean when you put two dashes at the beginning and end, it gets very tiny (whispering) but if you use only one, but crosses out the words.

Val123's avatar

@Courtybean Even if you put two dashes on one side, but only put one on the other it crosses it out. Fluther is a crossin’ out fool!

JLeslie's avatar

If you look below at what you have written it will show you if you have made it smaller or bolder, or crossed out before you hit answer.

Courtybean's avatar

Hey everyone. Thanks! I was extremely tired at the time of that response. Plus I typed it on my iPhone and there isn’t an option to view what you’ve written like you can on your computer.

@JLeslie- I’ve been all over the place in the US. I love it there but struggle with the food!

@Val123- lol. Are we really that hard to understand? My dad who travels to the US frequently said he’s now used to putting on an accent so he doesn’t have to continually repeat himself. Apparently when Australians put on an American accent we sound like we’re from Boston.

Val123's avatar

LOL! @Courtybean Yeah, mebee putting on an accent will actually help! Thinking back, when I was in college I dated a foreign exchange student from Arabia a few times. Terrible thick accent. But for fun, a couple of times, he threw down a “Texas” (American Texas—like there’s any other kind) accent on me as a joke. What he said then was crystal clear! It was way funny…and way, way interesting! So…that’s a thought. A good thought. One I’ll have to remember if I ever leave Kansas and go to, say, Oklahoma.

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