Just for the record, I don’t like using that word. My mother raised me better than to use words that can be considered crude, vulgar, or crass. Of course, I still use them every once in a while, but if I do, I have a reason for it. If you are being impolite or rude, just for the sake of being ill-mannered, then you have no excuse. You may think we’re descended from apes (and I beg to differ), but at least I know I have better manners than one.
Now, aside from that rabbit trail… I’m about to leave Australia for home, just when I’m reaching the point where I don’t hear my friends’ accents anymore. I’m pretty sure that tourist I bumped into, at the Sydney Opera House, was American, but it didn’t register until he walked away. Whether Aussie or American, they often just sound normal to me. Even to the point where I’ll meet someone and think, “Gosh, they sound like Buddy.”, or “I wonder if Joe knows he has a twin over here?”. Only after the fact, do I realize that doesn’t really make sense, because my American friends speak… well, American.
It’s a nice feeling, that familiarity, and knowing that I’m also pretty good at understanding all the terminology. I know what a “sticky-beak” is, understand that “no worries” can mean “no problem” or “you’re welcome”, and don’t get confused when someone greets me with “How ya goin’?”. I even speak coherently, every day, with a four year old that still can’t pronounce several letters of the alphabet, but I only ask her to repeat herself when she’s talking too fast for the human ear to hear (or when her mouth is full of food). In no place that I go, do I sit there with my mental “ear trumpet”, waiting to ask for a translation.
Of course, my U.S. friends will tell you that I’m going to go deaf before I go blind, when I get old, because I’m always asking my friends to repeat themselves. No, I don’t actually have a real hearing problem, but sometimes the words all run together in my head, or I’m not paying enough attention the first time. Or my friends are speaking too fast. Or too softly. If they’re speaking too softly, they’re probably the same friends who are always telling me “Shhh!”, no matter where we are. But don’t worry, I love them anyway.
The other major option is that I sometimes hear one thing, when they actually said something else. So, I have to stop and think about what they said again, kind of like when you play Mad Gab.
So, with all my comfy-ness with the Aussie accent and terms, I seem to have met my Waterloo. If you’re not familiar with the idiom, it refers to the battle that finally crushed Napoleon, back in the 1800’s. Bonaparte was seemingly unstoppable, but Wellington just plain smashed him and his army, and the French army never recovered from it.
Well, I met my Waterloo in the most unlikely of places. Several weeks ago, I came outside to find Mrs. B laughing, and asked her what was up. She told me (as I thought) that Bub had peed into the chook-laying container, and then a chicken startled her, causing her to shriek and fall over. Now, the plastic container that we’re talking about is at least four feet tall, so a baby can’t lean over it, much less get into it. But since babies do odd things, nappies and bodily functions are regular occurrences, and my brain was running a bit slow, I stopped to contemplate what she had just said. And couldn’t figure out how Bub had done such a thing, especially as she still had her nappie (diaper) on.
After repeating herself twice, I finally realized that Mrs. B had said Bub “peered” into it, but the Aussie accent pronounces that “pee-yud” or “peed”. Yeah. So, I slapped myself (mentally), several times, and promised to pay closer attention.
Several weeks went by, and I was working in the kitchen, while the girls were home from school. And then, laughter came from the direction of the bathroom. When asked, Bea told me that Bub had “peed” into the toilet, and then said “guck”, and backed away. Now, we’ve been trying to get Bub interested in using the potty, so this sounded somewhat normal to me, but when when I saw her a moment later, she was fully dressed. And why, if she had used the toilet, had there been no tremendous applause? Because it would have been a first time, and worthy of being noticed.
But the sentence still didn’t sound right, somehow, so I asked Bea again, as if I hadn’t heard right. Nope, I heard right, but something was still wrong. When I asked her again, Bea finally figured out what the problem was, and did the same thing her mom had done… “Not peed, PEE-yud, Rachel!”.
Everything clicked, and I was again crushed my my own stupidity, of Mad Gabbish proportions. And later, I realized the part that really should have caught my attention. Around here, when we’re talking about babies and nappies, we say “wee” and “poo”, not “pee” and “poop”. So, in both instances, they would have said that she “wee-ed”, if it had actually happened that way.
Babies do crazy things, though. Don’t all moms know that? Some of them rip their clothes off, any chance they get, but my Bub doesn’t do that. But she did, one, helpfully take her nappy off, and hand it to me, after having done a poo. While I was outside hanging up laundry. I think I had a fit of hysterical laughter. Wouldn’t you?
So, my brain didn’t register it’s crazy mistake, because somehow, the subject matter seemed right, though the language seemed wrong. Have you ever had a funny misunderstanding, while in another country? I already know about the American/Aussie confusion over the words “root”, “nurse”, and “rubber”. Aside from the obvious ones, do you have a hilarious travel and/or language memory?
Oh well. One can’t be perfect. And I guess I’m lucky that none of my other Aussie friends have yet to tell me that they “peered” into something. This time, I might really go off in a fit of hysterics. And then “wee” on myself.