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Tricky words


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English: "Shit the bed"

German: "Scheiß die Wand an" (translated: shit on the wall)


Always found that amusing :D

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"Koko Kokko kokoo koko kokkoa koko kokolla, koko kokolla kokoo koko kokko koko kokkoa" is an unrealistic yet perfectly acceptable Finnish sentence.


Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

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"The measure of a man's character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out."

- Baron Thomas Babington Macauley

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My personal favorites come from when I invited a German colleague of mine to watch an old American gangster film.


(Spoken with a thick Eddie Robinson/Bogart/New York accent.

""Go give him what for." "Yeah, what for?" "That's right. Clean his clock! He spilled the beans, and he let the cat out of the bag." "You got it, boss, I'll give him the works."

yay seuss crease touss dome in ouss nose tair

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Here's one for the inner child:


"Panna" is both put (on) and have sexual intercourse in Finnish.

We screw on the lights. Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute.


Also, Finnish people never waste words.


"I am considering going to the store." in Finnish would be "Menisinköhän kauppaan."


This is because we modify and inflect words based on their use in the sentence. This does cause one very awkward problem, especially for foreigners trying to learn our language. To give an example, let's take a look at all the different modifications of the word "dog", shall we?



Koira, koiran, koiraa, koirassa, koirasta, koiraan, koiralla, koiralta, koiralle, koirana, koiraksi, koiratta, koirineen, koirin, koirasi, koirani, koiransa, koiramme, koiranne, koiraani, koiraasi, koiraansa, koiraamme, koiraanne, koirassani, koirassasi, koirassansa, koirassamme, koirassanne, koirastani, koirastasi, koirastansa, koirastamme, koirastanne, koirallani, koirallasi, koirallansa, koirallamme, koirallanne, koiranani, koiranasi, koiranansa, koiranamme, koirananne, koirakseni, koiraksesi, koiraksensa, koiraksemme, koiraksenne, koirattani, koirattasi, koirattansa, koirattamme, koirattanne, koirineni, koirinesi, koirinensa, koirinemme, koirinenne, koirakaan, koirankaan, koiraakaan, koirassakaan, koirastakaan, koiraankaan, koirallakaan, koiraltakaan, koirallekaan, koiranakaan, koiraksikaan, koirattakaan, koirineenkaan, koirinkaan, koirako, koiranko, koiraako, koirassako, koirastako, koiraanko, koirallako, koiraltako, koiralleko, koiranako, koiraksiko, koirattako, koirineenko, koirinko, koirasikaan, koiranikaan, koiransakaan, koirammekaan, koirannekaan, koiraanikaan, koiraasikaan, koiraansakaan, koiraammekaan, koiraannekaan, koirassanikaan, koirassasikaan, koirassansakaan, koirassammekaan, koirassannekaan, koirastanikaan, koirastasikaan, koirastansakaan, koirastammekaan, koirastannekaan, koirallanikaan, koirallasikaan, koirallansakaan, koirallammekaan, koirallannekaan, koirananikaan, koiranasikaan, koiranansakaan, koiranammekaan, koiranannekaan, koiraksenikaan, koiraksesikaan, koiraksensakaan, koiraksemmekaan, koiraksennekaan, koirattanikaan, koirattasikaan, koirattansakaan, koirattammekaan, koirattannekaan, koirinenikaan, koirinesikaan, koirinensakaan, koirinemmekaan, koirinennekaan, koirasiko, koiraniko, koiransako, koirammeko, koiranneko, koiraaniko, koiraasiko, koiraansako, koiraammeko, koiraanneko, koirassaniko, koirassasiko, koirassansako, koirassammeko, koirassanneko, koirastaniko, koirastasiko, koirastansako, koirastammeko, koirastanneko, koirallaniko, koirallasiko, koirallansako, koirallammeko, koirallanneko, koirananiko, koiranasiko, koiranansako, koiranammeko, koirananneko, koirakseniko, koiraksesiko, koiraksensako, koiraksemmeko, koiraksenneko, koirattaniko, koirattasiko, koirattansako, koirattammeko, koirattanneko, koirineniko, koirinesiko, koirinensako, koirinemmeko, koirinenneko, koirasikaanko, koiranikaanko, koiransakaanko, koirammekaanko, koirannekaanko, koiraanikaanko, koiraasikaanko, koiraansakaanko, koiraammekaanko, koiraannekaanko, koirassanikaanko, koirassasikaanko, koirassansakaanko, koirassammekaanko, koirassannekaanko, koirastanikaanko, koirastasikaanko, koirastansakaanko, koirastammekaanko, koirastannekaanko, koirallanikaanko, koirallasikaanko, koirallansakaanko, koirallammekaanko, koirallannekaanko, koirananikaanko, koiranasikaanko, koiranansakaanko, koiranammekaanko, koiranannekaanko, koiraksenikaanko, koiraksesikaanko, koiraksensakaanko, koiraksemmekaanko, koiraksennekaanko, koirattanikaanko, koirattasikaanko, koirattansakaanko, koirattammekaanko, koirattannekaanko, koirinenikaanko, koirinesikaanko, koirinensakaanko, koirinemmekaanko, koirinennekaanko, koirasikokaan, koiranikokaan, koiransakokaan, koirammekokaan, koirannekokaan, koiraanikokaan, koiraasikokaan, koiraansakokaan, koiraammekokaan, koiraannekokaan, koirassanikokaan, koirassasikokaan, koirassansakokaan, koirassammekokaan, koirassannekokaan, koirastanikokaan, koirastasikokaan, koirastansakokaan, koirastammekokaan, koirastannekokaan, koirallanikokaan, koirallasikokaan, koirallansakokaan, koirallammekokaan, koirallannekokaan, koirananikokaan, koiranasikokaan, koiranansakokaan, koiranammekokaan, koiranannekokaan, koiraksenikokaan, koiraksesikokaan, koiraksensakokaan, koiraksemmekokaan, koiraksennekokaan, koirattanikokaan, koirattasikokaan, koirattansakokaan, koirattammekokaan, koirattannekokaan, koirinenikokaan, koirinesikokaan, koirinensakokaan, koirinemmekokaan, koirinennekokaan.


Oh and those are just for a singular dog. There are different words for plural form as well....


Edited by kyyrma
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You could talk about expressions that have different meanings in American & British English, if that counts as "tricky".

Pissed in the US is upset, in the UK drunk.

Trainer is the US is like a personal coach, in the UK running shoes (where a coach is a bus FTM).

Pants in the US are jeans, in the UK underwear.

Rubber, US condom, UK eraser.

Chips, US round (crisps), UK long (fries).

Uh, others: torch, jumper, shag, football, biscuit, lift, flannel, hamper, vest, trolley, braces...


Edit: Looking at some online lists, I'm realizing idioms get dated though, and a lot of these tend to be idiomatic. Like rubber for condom already sounds old fashioned, and another example I might have used ("fag"), no one I know uses that term in US English anymore; not exactly PC.

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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Finnish sentence:

"Hae lakkaa satamasta, kun lakkaa satamasta."


Translated to english:

"Get varnish from the harbour, when it stops raining."


Both sentences with numberings to see how meaning changes:

"Hae(1) lakkaa(2) satamasta(3), kun(4) lakkaa(5) satamasta(6)."

"Get(1) varnish(2) from the harbour(3), when(4) it stops(5) raining(6)."


Confused already? Mission accomplished! (I love our language! It is like it was created for puns.)



Just a few more:


"Hirvi paloi poroksi."


"A moose was burned to a cinder."

can also mean

"A moose was burned into a reindeer."


"Lasten päästä vedettävä kerrossänky."


"A children's bunk bed that can be pulled out from the end side."

can also mean

"A bunk bed that can be pulled out from the children's heads."


"Karhu jahtasi skootterilla karkuun kiirehtineitä isää ja tytärtä."


"A bear chased the father and daughter, who hurried away with a scooter."

"A bear chased with a scooter the father and daughter, who hurried away."


-The mapper's best friend.

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Impressive. I wonder if we can do this in English.

The Buffalo sentence is the weirdest that I can think of off hand.


'Fag' is a cigarette in UK.


Yes, but American English isn't quite as polite with the word.


and what is FTM here?


"for that matter" :)


Edit: With Japanese, because most words are only 1 or 2 syllables, it has a ton of double meanings & entendres, so lots of potential for confusing sentences. And because it uses Chinese characters it has visual puns too. Hard for me to look up examples though. A variation with the homophones is using the sounds of numbers to say sentences, which was big back in the days of pagers. The fun example I remember is 1492 = "ii yo, kuni..." (1=ii, 4=yo, 9=ku, 2=ni), which sounds like "Great! Land!!" (year of Columbus's discovery of America).

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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well 'faggot' in uk english is a type of spicy meat ball, its also a type of peat that you burn on the fire if coal isn't available, also a bundle of wood tied up and used to get a fire going.


there's always 'bollocks' which means balls (the ones men have), rubbish (as in 'not good at all').

there's also 'pillock' which means idiot (it could just mean 'you prickless twat'), and in olde english means 'you have no penus'.


bollocks not to be confused with bullock as a bullock is a bull thats been castrated.


for tricky sentences there's


'Pollish it behind the door' say it fast and you'll get it.


there's also 'back passage' which is a passage behind some building or your intestings from your bottom/fanny up.

Edited by stumpy
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This is sort of on topic. I saw a page about communication styles across various countries. Do these charts accurately represent your country? Comments or nuances you want to make? Speaking of Finnish, the Finland chart made me laugh a little at its humble mumble way.




I'll say the American is more or less accurate. Americans tend to be very transparent and "efficient". They don't hide or varnish anything, don't want others to hide or varnish anything, and they don't stand a lot of dilly-dallying around. And we have a culture of fighting for what you want, but you understand it's not a personal attack. To keep it sort of on topic, maybe a keyword for Americans is "myself", like let me do it myself if I can, then I can trust it'll be done how I want & not worry about others interfering. Independence is a strong concept in American culture. It's only a tricky concept if you underestimate it.


It's actually not my personal style. Especially dealing with people from other cultures, I try to be sensitive to where other people are coming from & get impatient with Americans that get impatient with other cultures. I want to pull them aside & let them know it's not just about solving the problem; you have to meet other cultures halfway.


Also, generally speaking, I always think of negotiations in terms of there's a shared truth out there, & we're cooperating together to find it. So I'll try to find shared ground to begin, and what about the other person's side I agree with, but then where I think they're missing something. Of course that's not always how the other side feels about it (that we're "cooperating" in an argument), but then I often think my task isn't to worry about how they feel, but to find the actual shared ground whether they want to admit it or not (hoping that eventually see it too), or admitting it can't be found, but here are the reasons why & how to deal with them.


Edit: They left out Japan (my current home)! It has one of the most indirect & "teamwork" styles you can imagine, so I'm very curious how its chart would look. They have a whole parallel language of double-meanings for asking what you want without actually asking for it, even more than the British have a reputation for.

What do you see when you turn out the light? I can't tell you but I know that it's mine.

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In german ( like in most germanic languages - except english) you can build some pretty nasty word-compounds.


The following one is/was actually in use:








Within the laws of german grammar one could easily built words twice as long.

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I can confirm with finnish and swedish parts. Do note that the swedish pattern works for finnish swedish minority in Finland, too.


I was once in negotiations of buying something. I suspect that for finns the result of the negotiations is somehow decided already before the negotiations even start. This results in very simple protocol.

Scenario A:

A: "What is the price"

B: *Tells price*

A: "Too expensive. Improve offer."

B: *Does not improve offer*

A: "No."

*Transaction terminated*


Scenario B:

A: "What is the price"

B: *Tells price*

A: "Too expensive. Improve offer."

B: *Improves offer*

A: "Okay."

*Transaction completed*


In this example A had already a solid idea what's he gonna pay for the aquisition and the negotiation flow was rather... binary.


As for the finnish swedish side, I've been in project management meetings and I can confirm the spiral thing in the chart. In this meeting, they didn't even stick to the agenda, and whirled around like hurricanes, then adjusted the final stuff even after they had already made the decisions. It was very confusing for a straightforward negotiation finnish finnish person.

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-The mapper's best friend.

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