Opinion

When meaning gets lost in translation

Sometimes, communication just isn't as effective as we'd like.

 

I was having a bit of a giggle with a girlfriend over a cuppa and catch up this morning. We were laughing as we remembered an incident where something got a bit lost in translation. Now as a kiwi living in Australia, the accent can get a bit tricky, even though I have lived here for many years (worked and paid taxes as an Aussie citizen)  I still lose things in translation.

We were laughing this morning as I remembered an occasion when we were new friends, and she had me around for dinner. I didn’t know much about her life story, but we had lots to talk about. We were discussing relationships and suddenly she looked a bit serious and quietly said “I’m a weirdo”.

“No you’re not, you’re a lovely person,” I replied, perplexed at this turn of events, but she again stated “No, I’m a weirdo!” to which I emphatically replied “Don’t put yourself down; there is nothing weird about you.”

She looked stunned and then burst into laughter. “No, I’m a widow!” We both burst into laughter; the incident totally cemented our friendship, and we still giggle about this to this very day.

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About fifteen years ago I had returned to Australia after a period of time in New Zealand. I was sharing a house in Sawtell with a very odd flatmate who I called “man mountain” because he was big, silent and unreachable. I later found out that his silence was due to the large amount of pot that he smoked out behind the garage.

He was out, and I was getting ready for a walk on the beach. As I pulled on my trackies (see, I’m a bit Aussie), I felt a stinging pain in my left bottom cheek. I whacked my bottom hard, and then I ripped down my daks and tried to look at my bottom which is hard to do because it is behind you and your eyes are on the front of your head. There was a big red mark, and on further investigation, a semi paralysed huntsman looking dismayed and aggrieved lay curled up in my pants.

Not sure on whether I had only hours to live, and having the usual Kiwi paranoia of Aussie spiders, I rang triple zero. As I was home alone and thought I was going to die, I needed to get something sorted. The ambulance officer I spoke to asked where I had been bitten. “In Sawtell”, I replied. “Am I going to die? Do I need an ambulance?”

Patiently he repeated, “No, whereabouts on your body did you get bitten?” I was sure I could hear suppressed laughter in his tone. “Oh, on my left cheek”, I replied. “Which cheek, face or …”

“Bottom cheek”, I replied to which he gave a whoop of laughter and said, “You’ll be right love, just take it easy.”

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So, as you can possibly tell, I’m the sort of person who doesn’t always pick up things in the first instance. Possibly I’m on a different wavelength, but many times things just simply get lost in translation. 

Do you have any stories of meanings getting lost in translation?

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