Guest Expressed: “The trouble is in the translation”

We all know how easily things get lost in translation from, say, Chinese to English. Yet you don’t have to look that far. Translation problems are all around us, even when we speak the same language.

Rachael McGimpsey shares some amusing thoughts on the issue in her third (wow!) guest post on Nest Expressed.

Enter Rachael:

Americans and the British are supposed to be speaking the same language: English, but often things can get a little lost in the translation.

Today I am bringing you four examples.

The first two being:

1. Spotted Dick
2. Knocked up

Spotted Dick is known to the English as “a pudding made with currents” – which explains the “spotted’, but no one can seem to explain the “dick” part.

Spotted Dick to an American: …well…*blush*….let’s just say it has nothing to do with pudding.

So, beware, unsuspecting foreign traveler, because if you walk into a supermarket in the USA and ask the manager: “Would you be so kind as to show me were you are keeping your spotted dick?” –You are very likely to get punched in the nose!

Knocked up in British can mean: “being ill”, “to be worn out”, or “fatigued to the point of exhaustion”.

In America being knocked up, may very well have something to do with “being worn out to the point of exhaustion”, still it has a very different meaning: finding out you have been impregnated.

So the sentence: “Sally was knocked up after having a spotted dick” has two very different mind pictures depending on if your speaking “British” or “American”.

So, just keep in mind where you are and to who (or is that to whom?) you are speaking when talking about being knocked up or about your spotted dick.

The next two on my list bring some confusion as well.

3. A rubber
4. Pissed

A rubber in America is slang for a condom.

In England a rubber is an eraser.

So, if you come to America, dear British cousin, and you want to erase something do not ask for a rubber, because here a rubber is only good for erasing your chances of becoming a parent.

Pissed in American usually means to make very angry.

In England pissed can mean you are very drunk.

So, the sentence: “I was very pissed, forgot all about using that rubber, and now I will have to live with my mistakes”, has a much gentler kinder meaning in England than in the USA.

So, fellow American if you are planning a trip to England, or if you are English and are coming to America sometime in the future, it may be wise to brush up on some common slang terms native to the populace.

Because, depending on what side of the ocean you are on, the slang term you use could convey a very different meaning to the one that you had intended.

You can read more amusing musings of the above kind on Rachael’s humorous blog. If you’re the serious type, check out Rachael’s more serious blog. If your attention span is only enough for 140 characters, follow Rachael on Twitter.

8 thoughts on “Guest Expressed: “The trouble is in the translation”

  1. Great post, Racheal. My, you are a busy gal!

    When I was a young Au Pair girl in Paris, after a big meal, I rubbed my belly and said to the family, “I’m full” in French–or at least what I thought that would translate to in French. But apparently I rubbed my belly and said, “I’m pregnant.” That got a good laugh out of them. At my expense…


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