Me Thinks

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Learning American

When I went to buy groceries in the farmer's market a couple of days ago, I saw an Indian, Ms. NewToAmerica, buying some vegetables. The okras they had there were not fresh, so she asked one of the guys working there if there were fresh "ladies fingers" inside. From the way she used "ladies fingers" I discovered she had just landed in the US of A. The Syrian guy kept saying sorry twice and made her repeat. She picked up the vegetable and repeated that question. He went in and brought some fresh okras and also picked up the sign-board that had fallen down and the board said "Okra". I threw a "been there done that" smile at her.
The english thats spoken in the US is so different from the english we all grew up learning. It takes a little getting used to. A few months after reaching this country, I had a doctor's appointment at 8 AM. I had to rush to work after that. I got into the lift, I mean elevator, and frantically pressed the button that said "1". The doctor's office was on the 1st floor. The door wouldn't even close and a school kid next to me said "Miss, we are already on the 1st floor". Ouch! there is no ground floor in this country. Ground floor is called the first floor here. Never the one to accept mistakes especially in front of a teenager I managed to say "This is what an early morning appintment does to me. Am sleep-walking, you know". Like she believed me! Not after seeing me dressed so appropriately and meticulously for my new workplace.
We all have a few embarassing moments and then we get used to American, the language. I had many, trust me. What takes the cake is this one.
A few days after I came to this country, I had to attend a party hosted by one of our American friends. There was a huge cake in honour of one of the persons and as the party drew to a close he was made to cut the cake, which appeared to be a cheesecake to me (why do I salivate even as I type that word?!) As the guy was about to cut it, some guys screamed "Cut the cake dude, don't cut the cheese" and a big guffaw followed. I obviously didn't get the joke and thought to myself "Why are these people laughing? I agree its difficult to cut the cake without cutting the upper portion of it, which happens to be cheese but whats so funny? Man! I got to get used to this American sense of humour". I realized from Mr.Me the next day that cutting the cheese means farting. Well.....

31 Comments:

Blogger Nilu said...

you were working within a few months? engeyo kanakku idikkuthe.....school enna achhu?

11:02 AM  
Blogger Casement said...

It happened when I was new to rolling my Rs instead of the silent Rs we were so used to. In a conference call with real who's who of the company, I mouthed -"Business mono laser" with a silent R at the end. An American on the other end was quick to react without thinking - "WHAT???? Business Monalisa?" In reply to her, I grit my teeth, swallowed the embarrassment and said -"business mono LAISERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR"...Now, my accent is hovering somewhere in the Atlantic ocean... between England and America!

11:20 AM  
Blogger thennavan said...

Idhu oru standard post for namma aalunga inge. Narayanan idhai paththi pona March leyo ennavo ezhudiyirundaar and naan immediate-aa April leyo ennavo ennoda anubhavam paththi ezhudiyirunden. Enakku ennamo Okra-vai vida Ladies Finger dhaan pidichchirukku ;-)

11:42 AM  
Blogger Me said...

the most paavamaana jeevan indha whole deal laye is the prof's....

1..moving the head for yes/no...

2..mmm..hhmmm(sound).....tamil la it means no and inga it means yes....

total confusion....paavam...

12:45 PM  
Blogger Deepa said...

Nilu, a few months after coming here, I got my greencard and started working. Have never been to school in this country.
Casement, monalisa had me roflol-ing.
Mukundan, never read your post on this. Will check that out now.
Me, thats true. Nodding of the head is something unique to us. A client from Pfizer once said "Deepa, can you show us how Indians nod the head? I know its different". Client aacchey so oru vazhi vazhinjittu didn't to do what he said.;-)

2:46 PM  
Blogger The Talkative Man said...

Was somewhat familiar with the vocab subtleties when I first came here. The biggest eye-opener was when 5 of us in the hotel lobby drank up the waffle batter for a couple of days mistaking it to be a tasteless fruit juice. It took an experienced desi to point it out.

Yup, had to show these folks that a horizontal side-to-side sweep of the head means 'no' while a vertical one means 'yes' :)

8:34 PM  
Blogger ashok said...

iam relearning my english too...it really pissed me off when the US army rejected my design submissions with the comment 'spelling errors' in the drawings...

3:00 AM  
Blogger Rajesh said...

A new consultant to my team said he will take rest in the rest room during night shift. Ofcourse he meant the "retiring room". :-)

On the other hand, my previous boss always invited me to write emails to his higher-ups.

10:49 PM  
Anonymous yogi said...

"cutting the cheese" comes from "cutting the cheeks (of the butt)"

1:26 AM  
Blogger Nilu said...

few months green card? ithu enna ration carda? oru mannum purila.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dei nilu,

unakku oru post cardukku kooda vazhi illa..... so pecha kora!!!!

4:43 PM  
Blogger I said...

dho da INS officer vantaru

9:30 PM  
Blogger NaiKutti said...

dustbin and trash, rest-room and toilet are somethings i can think off... one of my friend did his shopping and at the billing counter the lady asked paper or plastic... he was new and was confused... but being the rational guy he was, he thought for a while and said plastic... after the shopping i asked him, did u understand and he said yes... his explanation was plastic means credict card and paper means cash... but the lady at the counter meant the plastic or paper bags!...

i think US english is just designed so that it is at the other extreme of british english... and this diff. is not restricted to english alone, i guess...

10:32 PM  
Blogger I said...

There are two ways to do something-the British way and the easy way. That applies to everything.

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Prabhu said...

Oh well, how about a desi guy asking for a rubber @ staples..

Could that been "eraser" ?!

11:38 PM  
Blogger Me too said...

I remember once our Kitchen tap was leaking badly and I had a hard time explaining it to the Maintenance people as it is called a Faucet here!

Atleast Okra, Eggplant are big enough to be spotted but it took me a long time to realise cilantro was our coriander among the numerous leaves!!

10:01 AM  
Blogger The Talkative Man said...

Some of the ladies at the Walmart checkout call it cilantro while some others call it parsley. I let 'em have it as they please. Actually there's a subtle difference between the two
http://ezinearticles.com/?Add-A-Gourmet-Taste-With-Cilantro&id=135301

A diligent tour of the walmart/bilo food aisles is a must for the fresh-off-the-boat desi. Unless there are ample indian shops around.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Deepa said...

TTM, waffle batter doesn't sound very exciting. It would've been great to see your face when you gulped it down.:-) BTW, cilantro and parsley are very different. Looks like you are off hibernation presently. Hows life now?
Ashok, spelling mistakes?? Did you use words like colour, programme etc?
Rajesh, rest in the rest room is probably what he meant..;-)
Yogi, is that right? Interesting trivia indeed!!
Karthik, looks like SS has an answer to what you said.:-)
Prabhu, the eraser thing was captured in the movie American Desi (bad movie I thought but seems to be popular)
Me too, that was funny. Talking of maintenance men, I have a hard-time asking them to remove their mud laden shoes before they enter the main areas of my place. How about you?

2:31 PM  
Blogger Ajit Chouhan said...

nice one deepa...

3:06 AM  
Blogger Yasser Rahman said...

Oh, this is crazy..it takes a while for us indian's to get americanised, thats one of the reason's i havnt had to urge to vistit there even though opertunity's were plenty ..

3:48 AM  
Blogger rads said...

Wait till your kids start "correcting" you and you start defending yourself as yours is "british english" and theirs is "american english".
The icing is that they'd scoff at the British english! argh!

10:35 AM  
Blogger The Talkative Man said...

nopes we didnt feel anything at all and just finished it with a straight face for a couple of days :) Will be getting off very soon.

12:57 PM  
Blogger I said...

Isn't "desi" a racist slur?

1:38 PM  
Blogger ashok said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:21 AM  
Blogger ashok said...

exactly...colo(u)r, vapo(u)r, galvaniz(s)ed, ...so on

they dont understand my "concept plan" , "schedule of joinery", "working drawing"...very commonly used civil terms in India

they wanted me to call the washbasin as Lavatory, Tissue holder as paper towel dispenser,etc etc

i forgot the rest..

9:22 AM  
Blogger I said...

What's ur good name is also a common civil expression. It's a direct translation from 'shubh naam'.

There is Indhi in everything Indian or its copied from the Brits. u can hardly take it as a standard reference.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Me too said...

Oh, never dared(Especially, after watching 'Keeping up appearances', an old British tele-serial!)! What if they refuse to set foot (with or without shoes!) again!

12:10 PM  
Blogger Ajay said...

'i have a doubt' is another Indianism..

12:47 AM  
Blogger The Practical Idealist said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:18 AM  
Blogger The Practical Idealist said...

There are two ways of speaking English - the correct way, and the American way.

Similar to how every inauspicious act for Hindus is auspicious to Muslims, everything that's right with British English (The English) is incorrect / contemptible in American English.

7:19 AM  
Blogger Teju said...

hi Deepa,

That is a very cute one. Thanks for sharing...

I have had such similar experiences...

one of them here :D

http://ihavethemic.blogspot.com/2005/07/swish-click-tick-and-horror-at-hair.html

9:59 AM  

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