Language lessons ii: a guide to understanding your friends
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 4, 2008
I spent a delightfully girly afternoon with M today: we caught up over a long lunch at Olio (conversation sampler: “I enjoyed my eggs, but brunch at 961 really did feel like having breakfast in a bar.” from me; and “Of course we noticed. When we left, M and I looked at one another and I said: did you see that?” from M) and then headed into Saifi for pedicures.
I adore M, and I treasure her friendship, but to be honest: sometimes I do not understand her. Or at least I’m not always sure that we are speaking the same language.
One of the characteristics of life abroad as an English speaker is that you become friends with English speakers from around the world. M and I both consider English our native tongues, but M’s tongue is British and mine is American and … quite frankly … sometimes I have no idea what M is saying.
I was reminded of this by something M said as we left the restaurant. I was really chuffed for her, M said about a UK-based friend.
Chuffed? I remember thinking the first time I heard M use the term. What on earth does that mean?
So I put my Arabic as a second language skills to good use. I tried to get the meaning of “chuffed” from the larger context, and realized that “to be chuffed” is “to be happy” – but much cooler sounding.
Other M words have perplexed me because they are words that Americans also use, but with different meanings – somewhat like the dread faux amis that exist between French and English.
I’ll cut you a piece of the cake I made yesterday, M said one afternoon last summer, after we decided to end another pedicure session with tea and a visit with her two cats. But I must warn you: its a bit stodgy.
I looked at the piece of cake sitting innocently on my plate. Stodgy? In American English, “stodgy” is roughly equivalent to “stuffy” – in the behind-the-times, fuddy duddy great uncle sense. Perhaps the cake has been complaining about young people nowadays? I wondered to myself.
But no. When I took a bite, I realized what she meant: rich, filling, slightly gooey. In other words: YUM.
And a good reminder of the benefits that come from learning to speak another language – even if that language is also your own :).