April 20, 2010

cash not ash

Posted in Fun at 2:08 pm by Feng

I like the English people’s sense of humour.

Earlier this year, the Iceland population held a referendum, which with overwhelming majority decided to refuse paying the England and Netherlands the loss of savings following the collapse of  the IceSave bank. Some English reader commented on the recent volcano eruption in IceLand: “Dear  Iceland, we asked you to send cash not ash.” I don’t know who first wrote this, but it has be widely circulated on the twitter.

September 18, 2007

Good good study, day day up

Posted in Fun at 4:46 pm by Feng

Good good study, day day up — Study hard, then you will improve day by day

This phrase — literally translated from Chinese — really cracks me up. It is the legendary saying left by the great leader Chairman Mao. In my childhood, the phrase was painted on campus walls, heard on radio, and said by teachers and parents all the time. Today, it evokes a familiar mint smell that drifts me back into the young and naive age …

July 24, 2006

I’ve a lot Malaysians

Posted in Fun at 10:16 am by Feng

This incident shows how easy it is for Non-native English speakers to make mistakes unconsciously. Last weekend, a Korean couple were waiting at a check-out counter after shopping at the Sainsbury’s store. The wife started a friendly conversation with the cashier: “Where are you from?” The cashier replied with a smiling face: “I am from Malaysia.” “Great,” the Korean woman said with excitement, “I have a lot Malaysians!” A bit embarrassed, her husband quickly corrected her mistake. She was meant to say she had a lot Malaysian friends.

March 14, 2006

lawn mower

Posted in Fun at 10:03 am by Feng

lawn mower — a machine with a rotating blade for cutting grass [dict]

Yesterday morning when my officemate poped popped in, the first thing he noticed was my new haircut — very short but with uneven lengths. After learning that my wife did it, he started laughing and asked, “Did she use a lawn mower?” At night, a housemate saw my haircut and asked my wife, “Can you tell me what do you feel to marry how do you feel being married to a tennis ball?” Gosh, please let the the weather be colder —it is said that hair grows quicker during colder weather.

February 20, 2006

Cyprian problem

Posted in Fun at 10:27 am by Feng

Cyprian problem — a problem that people argue for a long time without any solution (Greek idiom)

I was having lunch with some Greeks. We talked about the problem in Cyprus, which had been a long-standing dispute between Greece and Turkey. Interestingly, Greek people come up with a new phrase from this — if two Greeks argue about something for a very long time, and this leads to nowhere, one would say in frustration, “hey, we are discussing a Cyprian problem.”

January 19, 2006

be intimate with

Posted in Fun at 10:15 am by Feng

be intimate with someone — have sexual intercourse with

A Korean girl was talking to an English guy she just met. She was surprised to learn that the guy happened to know her officemate. So she asked whether the two were close friends, “are you intimate with that girl?” The guy was shocked…

January 12, 2006

check your fly

Posted in Fun at 9:21 am by Feng

Check your fly — check whether the zipper on the front of your trousers is closed

On the flight back to the UK, I watched a hilarious movie. In the movie, a fool-looking cop chases the twin sisters. When he finally catches the twins, one of the girls says gently: “check your fly“. While the cop lowers his head to check his fly, the sisters have slipped slip away.

November 29, 2005

Chinese names

Posted in Fun at 12:51 pm by Feng

In the western culture, people usually call each other by their first names. But for many Chinese, their first names are rather difficult for westerners to pronounce, like “Jianjun”, “Jianqiang”, “wenxuan” etc. In that case, our surnames — which are simple and short — are called instead. But the Chinese pin-yin is sometimes very different from the English pronunciation. A friend, whose surname is “Shen” ([ʂən], where [ʂ] is similar to [s] but with the tongue curled upwards) , is upset about this, because his labmates always shout his name loud: “Shame!” In the same lab as his, there is a Chinese girl, whose surname is “Cao” ([cáo], where [c] is similar to cats). It couldn’t be worse — people call her Cow all the time.

November 25, 2005

two people got stolen!

Posted in Fun at 9:22 am by Feng

A recent incident reminds me that Chinese are not alone in making mistakes in English speaking. A guy from Brazil just moved into our shared house. Upon arrival, the first thing he did was to complain about the youth hostel he had stayed in earlier. “It was dreadful,” he said, “on the first night, two people got stolen!” We were shocked to hear that. But when it became clear that he actually meant “two people got robbed”, all laughed down to the floor (no such a phrase in English) to tears (or use “ROTFL”, see comments).