A Matter of Language: Chinglish Signs

Language was definitely an issue for me in China. When sales people started talking to me in Mandarin, I’d stop them and ask if they spoke English. Luckily, there would be another customer close by who stepped forward to translate. So being a Chinese in China who couldn’t speak the local language, I found some local signs amusing, even if it was just a typo. My favorite is the last one. Continue reading

Hotcakes and Hiccups

I recently had a conversation with one of my co-workers that could only happen in a place like Montreal where we constantly switch back and forth in French and English at work. While I can work in French, I don’t have an extensive daily vocabulary. The same can be said of my co-worker who is French and can work in English. We often help each other out, asking about grammar and the correct way to say something. Our desks are side by side with a divider in between, so while we can’t see each other, we can talk to each other.

Now the key words in this conversation are “hoquet” which is French for hiccup and the word “hotcakes.” If you say “hotcakes” with a heavy French accent, guess what it sounds like?

Our conversation went like this:

Co-worker: I have hoquet.

Me: You had hotcakes?

Co-worker: Is that how you say it in English?

Me: Yes. Hotcakes?

Co-worker: Oh, that is interesting. I have hoquet.

Me: It’s the same as pancakes.

Co-worker: What?

Me: Hotcakes is another way to say pancakes.

Co-worker: I think that is not what I mean. I have hoquet.

Me: You had hotcakes for lunch?

Co-worker: No. Hoquet. (She hiccups loudly)

Me: You have hiccups!

Co-worker: What? Hoquet? It is the same?

Me: No, hiccups. H-i-c-c-u-p. How do you spell it in French?

Co-worker: H-o-q-u-e-t

(Pause)

Me (puzzled): So hotcakes gave you hiccups?

Maybe it wasn’t just the language. We had a good laugh. 🙂

Have you ever had a conversation like this?