Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Talking About the Same Things in Different Countries

Sign pointing to the shopping carts and wheel chair ramp
As I have traveled in different countries and lived in different cultures, I have been amused by the different ways we say things but mean the same thing.  For instance, after moving to Hawaii, I went to the local Walmart and asked for a "buggy," you know--the thing you put your items into and push around the store.  I quickly found out no one knew what a "buggy" meant but they certainly had "wagons" for carrying around the items you want to purchase.   When I moved to Italy, I found the "carrella della spesa" is translated "shopping cart." In the UAE, the stores have a "trolley."

In Europe I also found that WiFi (wy-fy) is pronounced WiFi (wee-fee), very fast as to sound like one syllable.  In the UAE I hear it pronounced both ways.  It tend to use the latter here as I got used to saying it when I lived in Italy.  In the UAE, the cell phone is a "mobile" (pronounced mo-bile with a long i as in the word style) while in Italy it is "cellulare" which translates to cell.  

The other day I was watching a British television program and the woman in the show exclaimed over a large yard (or garden as it is frequently called here) telling her husband "you will definitely need a sit-on for this garden"---meaning a riding lawnmower.  And speaking of British, the trucks here are referred to as a "lorry."  Of course this makes sense as the British were the first westerners to come to Abu Dhabi to drill for oil.  They also made their imprint on trash across the globe as I find people of all nationalities here throw out the "rubbish."  When I tell my gardener (who I think is Pakastani) or the maintenance man (who I think is Lebanese or Syrian) to discard something in the "trash" the head goes sideways and the brow creases with lack of understanding.  I have to correct myself and translate to "rubbish."  Then, I get the head nod "oh yes, I understand."

When I landed in the airport in New Delhi, India, I looked for the exit signs to no avail.  The large "Way Out" signs were amusing.  And then, I happened to notice when I was leaving the airport rental car garage at the Abu Dhabi International airport, the exit signs were also "Way Out." I had never noticed until I returned from India.   I find this very amusing as I can only imagine this term being a southern expression.  Akin to a Southerner saying "fixing to" when they are getting ready to do something or "cutting off the light" instead of turning it off. (I have been severely teased about these two expressions.)

However, I have found some expressions that I believe are solely used in this region --- or I must say by Indian people who live in this region.   Here they "sieve the flour" instead of "sift" it, and the flour is "self-raising" and not "self-rising."  When someone asks for a "pay raise," they are asking for a "pay rise."  Makes sense I guess.   One wants a rise in pay.    My former Sri Lankan taxi driver, asked me if I was going "up and down" when we were discussing a trip I was making.  He meant "round trip."  My former Sri Lankan maid always called the vacuum a "Hoover" no matter the brand, and she carried a "box" instead of a suitcase when she traveled and put the "box" in the "boot of the car" not the trunk.  After letting down the window of the car, she would "pull up" the window not "roll up" the window.

Hereabouts the vegetables even have different names.  Green, red, and yellow peppers are "capsicums," and cilantro is "coriander." Capsicums is actually the correct name.  They became known in the west as peppers because Spanish explorers mistakenly believed them to be related to peppercorns. (not chilis).  Upon some google research, I found out that cilantro is actually referring to the stem and leaves of the coriander plant.

I make a point of recording these English language differences and find them quite amusing at times.  Some times I have to scratch my head and wonder.  And then, other times the expression will make perfect sense or at least I can figure out how the word came to be used in that way.

Difference.  It is what makes the world go round----and frankly, quite so fascinating.

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