When I was growing up, it was a wonder to me that my parents, who both have accents in English, could have enough meaningful conversations to end up as a couple. Obviously, neither of them is a native speaker of English — they learned the language as pretty much adults — and as a child, I'd giggle to myself during their normal, everyday, hows-the-weather conversations because they'd say things super incorrectly.
My mother, for example, can never pronounce the "s" in "sip" and is always asking to steal a "zip" of my Diet Coke. My dad, on the other hand... where do I begin? I'm pretty sure he thought "boo" was the word for "poop" until just last week.
Recently, couples on reddit who date foreigners (or, in some cases, are the foreigner) shared the hilarious misunderstandings that ensue when two people who don't speak the same language end up spending a lot of time together.
1. Who's Linda?
When one woman was first getting to know her "now-husband," he texted her "Goodnight, Linda." Which led to a bit of confusion over whether the text was intended for her...
Thankfully, she quickly realized that her Dominican boo was just trying to romance her in Spanish, where the word "linda" means "beautiful."
Either that, or her husband made up quite a "clever cover for that two-timer texting someone named Linda," she writes.
2. "Puppy cats, puppy birds, puppy horses"
According to one guy's humorous anecdote, his German wife used to think that "every baby animal should be prefixed with 'puppy,' as in 'puppy dog'." For her, there were "puppy cats, puppy birds, puppy sheep, puppy horses, etc."
"It was gold," he recalls. And somehow (I wonder how...) "nobody told her it was wrong." Well, the German wife got her comeuppance when the time came for the couple to relocate to Germany.
"She got me back by teaching me how to say 'I'm tired' as 'I'm stupid' in her language," he writes. "Revenge was had."
3. "Knulla i munnen"
"When we first started dating," one woman realized that her Swedish husband would always use the same phrase to describe delicious food: "knulla i munnen."
According to her, "he repeated it a lot," and so she decided she'd use it when they "went out to dinner with his Swedish mom," whom she had never met.
"When we first tasted our food, I said it was 'knulla i munnun," she remembers. After that, her future mother-in-law "went kind of silent and looked down at her plate." Her husband's "eyes went wide."
Everything got super awkward "for the rest of the dinner" and no one explained to this woman until much later that the Swedish phrase means "like an orgy in the mouth."
4. Oh, Australians.
Two people who ended up with Aussies share the funniest miscommunications they have. According to one, "thongs" were a very "exciting but confusing" article of clothing. One person was suggestively thinking of the item of lingerie, while the other was confused about flip-flops.
Another American who married someone from down under "got a kick" out of learning there was a whole other meaning to Sloppy Joes. To her, "it meant a hoodie," he explains. "To me, it's a type of loose meat sandwich in a tomato sauce."
5. Not understanding swear words.
This perplexes me the most when I see foreign couples, because I don't understand how one is supposed to pick up on vulgar nuances or sarcasm and irony, which change so much from culture to culture.
One person shared that her husband, who "learned English from school and studying," isn't too familiar with swear words. "We were in a bar with another couple who started having an argument," she writes.
"'You just don't give a f---'," said the woman, "storming off." Her husband, perplexed, turn to her "and said, 'They don't have sex?!?'"
6. "That's what she said."
Obviously, nothing is more hilarious than seeing a foreign person try to use modern English slang.
One person shared that her boyfriend is "having a hard time getting a handle on 'that's what she said' jokes." I wish so much I could be a fly on the wall for their conversations.
"Usually he ends up saying 'so she says,' or 'so would she say'," she writes. Another person chimed in with a similar story about their girlfriend. "She screwed it up by saying, 'She said that!'"
7. Sure, popodai sound like fun.
"When I was dating my wife, she was taking me to see a popodai farm," begins this hilarious story by a man who's married to a foreigner from an unspecified country.
Per her excited descriptions, there would be "popodais everywhere, you can touch small popodais, they have an awesome popodai show and you can even eat popodais!" He had "absolutely no idea" what she was talking about, but it seemed the more he tried to ask about it, the more frustrated she got.
Once it was time for the couple's big adventure, "I was like, 'AHHH, CROCODILE FARM!'," he recalls. Naturally, like any SO would, he spent the rest of the day making fun of her.
Then her friend came to join them. "She asked her, 'How do you say 'crocodile' in English?'" To which she responded, looking him "dead in the eyes," "POPODAI!"
The dude understandably "lost it."
8. "You know, a ship! BAAAA!"
The double "e" sound is so difficult for native Spanish speakers to make, don't ask me why. One guy's wife was "so excited about [American] wildlife" that she planned an extensive hiking and camping trip.
When she came back to the group after a day of hiking, she was "excited to tell us about the 'ship' she saw." Which confused everyone else, because they were nowhere near a body of water. "After a few rounds of back and forth she was getting pretty frustrated," he remembers. Finally she told them, "You know, a f---ing ship!! BAAAAA!!!"
It turns out she'd seen a "big horned sheep" and the rest of the group only caught on after her sound effects.
This story is bringing me back to my childhood.
9. "Yan pi" and NEVER "Pi yan"
There exists a common plastic surgery in many Asian countries where women "give themselves a second eye fold," explains one man as he sets up the most crucially terrible misunderstanding scenario.
"It's called 'shuang yan pi' — shuang is double, yan is eye, pi is skin. Double eye skin. Got it?" he writes. "But flip "yan pi" to "pi yan" and now you're saying "butthole."
I remember from my sister's lessons in Mandarin that Chinese can be a terrifying tightrope where you're constantly a word or tone away from saying something horribly incriminating. This guy had just started dating his current wife, and they were about to meet a friend who had just had this surgery.
"Great. Free conversation topic," he writes. Except, he accidentally flipped the "yan" and "pi" and ended up saying this woman had a great double butthole.
"'What?'" the two reply together. Thinking neither of them heard, he repeats, "practically yelling over the noisy crowd, 'YOU HAVE TWO BUTTHOLES! THEY LOOK GOOD!'" At this point the wife is urgently trying to tell him to shut up, but he's still loudly repeaing it, now motioning to the eye while enunciating "DOUBLE BUTTH---." At this point, the wife grabbed his arm and told him to just "describe" what he meant.
That's one you'll never live down, and will one day have to explain to your grandkids, bud.