Friday, April 21, 2006

How do you receive Male?

A few days ago I posted an email I received from a friend serving in Iraq. He sent me another email today, which was way more lighthearted:

I met an interpreter from the Karada District yesterday to to try ask questions like: "Has Iraq gotten better since 2003?" "What's better about life?" Do most people want the US to stay longer or leave now?" I know it's completely unscientific, but I like polling Iraqis in casual conversation to see how people feel about our efforts here.
So I asked one female interpreter who works in my building where she lives in Iraq to see where she's coming from. Afluent people tend to all have the same opinions. Incidently, Karada is "upscale" Baghdad. At first she said Baghdad (no sh*t), then Karada, then I ask which muhallah (neighborhood). Karada is a big place too. But she says "no muhallah; just Karada." That was clearly untrue because every muhallah has a 3-digit postal code. So I said, "You must have a muhallah. How do you receive mail?"
In the course of this half-broken conversation. She heard "Where do you live? Where's your house? Well, then How do you receive 'male'?" Her face got all screwed up into this totally f^#g offended mask. I'm not sure if she was muslim or christian (I think christian because she shook my hand at the end, but its that much funnier if she was muslim), but what was going on in her mind was not at all the same thing that was going on in mine. Her face turned upside down at the exact second that the soldiers she worked for came down the stairs. They happened upon a CPT asking their translator for her address and how she takes it (?!)
The situation was easy enough to explain. "Um, no, m-a-i-l. Packages...letters...the other "M a e l" but it was funny as hell to me because I wondered how many other things go misinterpreted and subsequently unexplained. The NCO who'd come down took the opportunity to make fun of her for the rest of the walk out of the building. No one could begrudge him his string of plausable answers to the misundrstood question: "Um, frontally?, no, ...How about .. .. . ."


Blogger Nicole said...

I think it would be fun to compile lots of "letters home" (or should I now say e-mails home) from soldiers and publish them...or has that already been done? I love reading's so first-hand and real. Good stuff.

4:48 AM  
Blogger StoicMom said...

This is too cute. My nephew recently married a German girl who speaks very good english, but she still sometimes says cute funny little things that we just love. She had a manicure and pedicure one day and, not knowing those words, she told my sister that she had her "fingernails and footnails painted".

4:16 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

LOL - I'll feel free to make fun of someone else's command of the English language when I can at least say more than 5 words of a second language myself...

I'm sure that kind of misunderstanding happens quite often. Believe it or not it happens even more often between "English speaking" peoples. Because everyone thinks they're speaking the same language. *grin*

On various message boards I've been on over the years - I've had some really fun emails about word misunderstandings between Americans and British, or Americans and Australians. It's always a hoot to find out how our slang is interpretted by others....

4:24 AM  

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