Monthly Archives: June 2009

Faux Amis

The good thing about living in a foreign country is that you can learn a new language. The bad thing about living in a foreign country is that you often learn a new language the hard way. No wonder then, does the tonsured guy at the airport take offense when he hears someone shout “Hey, bald man!” in his direction. Much as his glare and angry fist may sound justifiable at that point, I assure you there would be some who might empathize with the poor German instead, for the slip. Having realized the horror of his faux pas a tad too late, the hapless Herr has no choice but to emphatically repeat – in German – “Hey bald Mann! Komm doch bald!” (Hey soon man, come on soon!). Phew, a close shave, indeed!

If you speak more languages than one, you must surely have come across false friends, or as the caviar-connoisseurs would say, faux amis. The kind of friends who talk to you smoothly, and get you into trouble just as smoothly. Like Juan, this suave Mexican friend I had back in the university. If there was one thing that gave either of us a juvenile kick, it was to embarrass the heck out of other at the most opportune moment. Imagine then, how the tables were turned on me when in my naïve triumph – and my broken Spanish – I exclaimed “Está intentando dejarme embarazada!” Naturally, I was certain I was saying “He’s trying to make me embarrassed!” It was the price I paid to learn a new word that day. Embarazada, in Spanish means pregnant. Not embarrassed.

Let that be a lesson, my friends. You’ve often been told appearances are deceptive – but don’t let that fool you; they really are deceptive! Your German friend may well want to give you a Rat when you’re already feeling low and confused. Believe me, she means well. Of course, you could repay her kindness with a Gift on her birthday, if you want to. But then, you don’t want to. When in France, avoid sitting on a chair. But even if you do, don’t fall off it when someone casually mentions they put their clothes in an expensive commode.

And finally, bear in mind – a jar of peanut butter should be the very last place to look for a preservativ, almost any place in Europe. Unless of course, you are – in more ways than one – f**king nuts!

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