Talking Words

I am traveling again. Today I am in Austin, Texas. Hot. Hot. Hot. Like my Dad I am no good in the heat. But I love cities.

Everyone needs variety so this morning we walked a trail through the Barton Creek Green Belt.

This particular trail (I call it a track) runs right under an overpass so it is a curious combination of edgy urban and nature walk. Vehicles roaring overhead as we negotiated the rocky tree lined path added an interesting dimension.

Americans call it hiking and I call it going for a walk. If it is a long walk I call it a tramp. Semantics. Right?

So we walked and chatted. I had read that it is easier to purge the body of toxins through sweat so we discussed sweat and wondered where the moisture has been before it is sweated out. Under our skin? Where under the skin. In the cells? And how did the toxins get there and what really is toxic. Who decided it was toxic. Then I thought about crying. Not because I needed a good cry but when you have a good cry where does all that salty water come from. Is it waiting in some hidden reservoir just in case you give in and indulge in a good sob. Do you mean sob or weep. No, I mean sob. Do tears go off? Oh, you mean off as in stale? Yes. Are your first tears stale? Then we had to dissect the word indulge. If we enjoy an indulgence how can we enjoy crying. And then we wondered about stale again and cycled back to sweat. Maybe the first of the sweat is stinky because it is stale – like stagnant water.

And by then we had wandered totally off the track. We were lost. So I wandered off some more to take photographs while the map was consulted.

We have to be careful when we communicate. Words are not mathematics – words are not pure like numbers, they can mean different things within different contexts and different cultures and are easily mis-interpreted. I say or write things but often my American friends are doing fast translation to make sure they understood me correctly. This morning I said I walk to stay fit. My American friend thought I meant I walked so I stayed looking good.

So, I amended this to “I walk to increase my fitness”.

But now I am wondering what other words or phrases I use that may be misunderstood. It is easy to be misunderstood in this age of tiny word bites. Tiny bites in our words.

Interesting right. I think we need to add a healthy dose of kindness before we interpret each other’s words. Listen with a smile and an open ear then ask questions to begin the conversation. Too often we just judge a word and assume we get it and forget the conversation.

Some words are perfectly clear though.

I hope you are all having a lovely Saturday!

Cecilia

24 Comments on “Talking Words

  1. I also received a lot of funny looks soon after I arrived in NY. I needed to erase some writing I’d been doing, And asked for a rubber!!!
    Then I wanted to make Scones, and in the supermarket, asked the young man, “I’m looking for dates”??? He turned scarlet. I don’t talk much now……..

  2. The interpretation exists even within people from a single social or local group, as I discovered when I was lecturing. Many people understand what that want to hear. I find translation and interpretation facinating between languages. English subtitles (on films) are often quite different to the original languages and vice versa!
    I made it to Texas for about 5 minutes …while changing planes. Great picture of Colorado Street!

  3. I love words and language, I love to try to figure out the roots of words. My high school didn’t offer Latin, I often wish it had. On walking – I walk so I can eat, that’s it.

  4. Glad you are moving and enjoying and being with friends not seen awhile ! Think I could write a book or at least a novella about all the times during the past decade I have inadvertently managed to make American friends stand back with a ;huh ?’ From wearing thongs on my feet to openly going to the toilet not the bathroom and buying punnets of seedlings !! And there are the coriander and salad issues at the greengrocer’s which does not seem a term used either . . . I laugh but sometimes have to wonder whether I sound like the proverbial village idiot . . . and I definitely walk to stay fit . . .

  5. Oh, I would love to walk there. Even though I am American I define walk as mostly level ground, no matter the terrain. Hiking is when you ascend mountain trails carved into the slopes but with astounding views for miles. I would call a long and strenuous hike a trek. Has that confused the situation even more 😉

  6. My wife and I have volunteered to help new residents to the US who are learning American English. Some of our most interesting and productive sessions involved words and idioms that most of us are familiar with. The students were often confused by them.

  7. I loved every word here. Some made me laugh out loud. I had so much trouble with English traveling back and forth between countries and then states. When we moved to Georgia from Germany, I told my mother that they didn’t speak English in my school. I couldn’t understand anything they said. Almost failed the grade in the one month I was there. I like to watch British and Australian made shows to hear the different euphemisms. Quite the education. Happy hiking and stay fit. 😉 I don’t on either count.

    • Dear Marlene – hello with a hug from Australia – I so wish all had your nous and attitude . . . For my money we do not speak “American English’ or ‘British Änglosh’ ot ‘Australian English; . . . English comes frim Great Britain – we speak Australian and Kiwi and American and South African ! Al are right for wherever we come from so let’s understand one another and love our differences ! Loved your last post . . . yep, I quietly read . . .

  8. I love that sign… “Don’t leave your mark” had me wondering… Graffiti? Until I looked closer. An interesting euphemism. Here in Australia such directives are more likely to be more direct… Clean Up After Your Dog or Pick Up The Poo! One of the funniest linguistic misunderstandings I had was early on blogging when I mentioned the pot plants on my balcony… one American reader commented that I was quite bold to admit to such a thing. We sorted it out, and apparently geraniums and decorative greenery are “potted plants” as opposed to the kind you smoke.

  9. A brilliant meander through the trails of your mind. Semantics always intrigue!

  10. Many nations, divided by their common language. Cooler, eskie, chillybin. Flipflops, thongs, jandals. Grill, barbecue, braai, Walk, hike, tramp. With a little patience, goodwill and an ounce of clarification as needed, we can all understand each other, so long as no one insists on being right!

  11. Such a small world yet so large with communication… even the tiniest bits, yeah? I grew up in the West Indies and was actually a minority as a white girl, when my father’s time as a missionary was up and we moved back to the States and I was the grand old age of nine, I had never heard the term now revered as the “N” word… some one had to explain it to me. I was shocked to say the leased.

    It just goes to show, not every thing is as it seems when it seems to be. I am almost sixty now and have lived in the United States as a “white privileged woman” … I really #$&^* hate labels. They are for jars and shelfs. But, so society is. A label making machine. And I am but a cog. We all are whether we actively participate or not, we get labeled. It sucks.

    Celi, I appreciate the forum you present because you see beyond the bullshit. Thank you. Not only for bread. But for life, kids, extended family, and what we can do for the planet.

    Keep on doing my friend (if I my have the audacity to call you that).

    kk

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