Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan

Friday, April 15, 2005

Waterfalls, Planes and Naked Soccer: Sometimes It's better to know Russian before Speaking English.

When I was in Thailand in 1994, one component of my studies consisted of an intensive Thai language course. Thai, is a tonal language and one word can have up to 5 different meanings (depending on intonation). Aside from addressing my host mother as “dog” rather than “mom,” I recall two other instances where friends intoned tales other than those intended.

During one class, the normally Napoleonic instructor coiled over in hysterics. She had asked my friend Andrew what his favorite hobby was. Andrew, one of the better speakers in our group, wanted to show off his new vocabulary and carefully constructed a sentence believing he was saying, “I like to play in waterfalls.”

What he really said was, “I like to play with falling breasts.”

In a similar vein, my friend Erin was asked by her instructor, “how did you get to Thailand?”

She wanted to say, “I rode here in an airplane.”

Instead, she replied, “I rode on a flying penis.”

Today, I added to this list of linguistic bloopers. Discussing summer activities with a female co-worker, we began talking about soccer.

Please note: like most conversations around my office, this was a hybrid of English/Russian.

Nigora (pronounced Nee-gor-ah) said, “When everyone in our office goes on a trip into the country, we like to go swimming and play football (soccer).

I winced, “Oh, I am awful at football.”

“Yes, me too—they make me stand in the rectangle and hit the ball away.”

“You’re goalie.” I said, supplying the most obvious answer.

Nigora’s face turned bright red, “LARRY!”

Caught off guard, I repeated myself believing she must have misheard me, “You’re goalie. GOALIE.”

Still blushing, Nigora managed to say, “Larry, do you know what you are saying?” and reached for the Russian English dictionary on my desk.

As she flipped through the pages, I held my breath in anticipation...

A homonym, “голый” (pronounced just like our “goalie”) means:
1) naked, nude; bare - голая голова 2) ( без примеси ) unmixed, sheer, pure, neat - голый спирт 3) ; bare, pure, unadorned.

So, I was saying, “You’re naked. NUDE!” And not, “You’re goalie. GOALIE.”

In closing, I beckon my friends to come to Kyrgyzstan—where the vodka’s cheap, the revolutions are fast, and the goalies are nude.

Still laughing,

Larry Tweed


  • Your post has enlightened me. I'm off to play with some "waterfalls"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 11:46 PM  

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