Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Problem with English (Part II): Idioms

My Yugoslavian-born husband is the owner of a book entitled, '100 American Idioms'. Which is why he can, only slightly self-consciously, make declarations such as, "It is raining cats and dogs!"

We are all terribly proud of him. How many men, after all, could come to America at the age of 40, with only a haze of remembered high school English, and then a scant handful of years later be able to say things like that? In normal conversation!

Which brings me to last weekend, on the Saturday after the big American Holiday of Thanksgiving. Due to the depredations of an unusually aggressive squirrel, we had to go buy a new 30lb sack of bird seed for the feeder outside our favorite window.

My step-daughter, home from college, had borrowed the car the night before. So, instead of my regular music, the sound system boomed out songs from a CD she'd left in the player. As we neared the local farmer's supply store where we buy bird food, the sound system blared a song, with an insanely danceable beat, to which the words, as best I can remember them, went, "I'm going down on you, I'm going down, I'm going down. I go down on you every morning; I go down on you every night. I'm always going down on you."

I thought nothing of it... until my husband, caught by the danceable beat, began to sing along, "I'm Going Down on You!" he warbled. 'I go down on you every morning! And every night!!"

My husband is a Serb. Which means he is completely unafraid of and unabashed by public singing. If you've got something to sing, well sing it out loud and sing it for quite a while.

As I descended from the driver's seat I was struck by this thought and interrupted him. "Honey? Do you know what this means? To go down on a person?" "Of course I do," he scoffed, "It is about going down to the river, going down the hill, going downstairs. Everybody knows that." With that he started singing with renewed vigor...

...and it was only with the utmost persuasion I got him to stop while we were in the store. I'm pretty sure he still thinks I over-exaggerated the reason why.

Note: The Problem With English Part I is here.

16 comments:

RNSANE said...

That is quite amusing...perhaps he will want you to sing that song while you perform the MTV vesion for him!!!!

Matt Hollingsworth said...

My wife is really good with English too, but she also makes a lot of those little silly mistakes.

BTW, instead of busy like bees, in Croatia they use ants in the phrase. Makes sense though.

Christina said...

Charming story. But your poor birds will starve with any squirrels around, I have squirrel-blocking things on all my bird feeders - available where I get the bird feed.

Mia said...

hahahahahahahaha!!

maybe serbian is more expressive than english?

hdragoo said...

Haha, too funny! My Serb husband speaks fabulous english but it does not spare him from those same funny moments that will usually get a stare or two. One of my favorites was definitely when he wanted to borrow some of my chapstick and asked my for my lipstick :) That got a couple of looks for sure. However, he finds me pretty entertaining with my idioms for sure....I usually get a smile and a head scratch....and for example I know he is wondering why in the world I would give him a penny for his thoughts :)

merkat said...

Care to explain what "I'm going down on you" really means? I'm very curious to learn :o)

And, btw, could anyone tell me what TLC and MOL means? I've tried every single online slang dictionary, and gave up...

Mario said...

With all due respect, I hope you understand the importance of mother's tongue? You can always catch small errors of foreign speakers.
My English is better than Slovene although I live here for 31 years. Mother's tongue close Serbo-Croatian.

Quince said...

merkat, here are directions to downtown: Pass the belly button but if you get to the knees you have gone too far.

SOme MOL out loud while admiring a TLC, but they may call refer our moniker with a rooster in the old country.

Christina said...

TLC = Tender Loving Care.

LOL is laugh out loud, but I have never seen MOL.

merkat said...

Quince, what I can understand from your reply is that you love to make fun of non-native English speakers. That's so sad... However, it shows the level of your culture and education. And level of your sense of humor (somewhere in the basement I guess).

Holly said...

priceless :)
My favorite language mistake of my Croat is he thinks all underwear is "panties". I don't know how i managed not to laugh and let him in on the joke, somehow I managed. Now normally I kindly and gently correct these little misunderstandings in language. However, I just can't correct this one, it's too dang funny to have my big macho husband asking where are his clean panties, hahahahhah!

Quince said...

Sorry for the typos. I meant to say some from the old country may confuse the C in TLC with a rooster.

Quince said...

Actually Merkat what is interesting is I was not trying to make fun of you even though my typo's may have made it appear that way. When I am in Serbia I find that even though people speak multiple languages their knowledge of each language is not wide in breadth. In other words they can communicate but only on somewhat superficial levels: nuance, gist and tone are not received as they are with their native language.

This is interesting to me because it makes me wonder if hyper sensitivity in communication has is an unexpected by product of multiculturalism (the real kind not the kind we invented in America which is just another name for affirmative action).


Christina

TLC has another meaning: "Ten inch Long...

MOL means moan out load.

I did not invent them I am just trying to educate.

merkat said...

Thank you, Christina! :o)

I know what LOL is, I guess that MOL is something new...

Christina said...

Well, there you go, I had no idea that TLC was a double entendre or what on earth MOL was - though I'm not sure how I will benefit from this new knowledge!

Anonymous said...

Are YOU familiar with Serbian idioms? :)

Zasto je baba dala banku da udje u kolu, a dve da izadje?
Zasto je neko mogao da popije batine?
Kako je za dlaku izbegnut sudar?
I kako mu je zivot visio o koncu?
A onda ga je jos i devojka ispalila? Stavise, dala mu je korpu!
Itd itd itd... :)