Funny language faux pas

I was talking with a group of non-native Spanish speakers and we were sharing stories of embarrassing language mistakes.

One fellow was with a friend while doing construction work on their church building. He meant to say that they needed some tree branches (ramas) to help them prop up something. What he said instead was “Necesitamos unas rameras para ayudarnos” (We need some prostitutes to help us).

Another was a story shared about a friend of mine who was not there to defend himself, but I am sure the story is pretty accurate based on other things he has said.

The water pump (bomba) did not work at the house he was renting. He went to the land lady’s house to tell her the bomba did not work. But he could not remember the word. He knew it sounded like an English word so he told her “Su pompa no funcciona.” “Pompa” is the word for the sitting down part of the body. The land lady just smiled and patted herself on the rear end and said, “No se funcciona muy bien” (No, it works just fine).

4 thoughts on “Funny language faux pas”

  1. I know just how they feel now. I knew there were words in our vocabulary that means innocent things to us but completely different things in other countries. I had first had experience with that in Australia. The biggest was the term “fanny pack.” In America, it means the very handy little bag that attachs to the waist. In Australia it is in reference to a female body part. That was an eye opener.

  2. 1. “The biggest was the term “fanny pack.” In America, it means the very handy little bag that attachs to the waist. In Australia it is in reference to a female body part. That was an eye opener.”

    You are pretty safe with the phrase “bum bag,” although I dread to think what that means in Thai! Fanny will get you in touble in the UK, and Australia. Canada, I am not sure, so be careful. Dredging my memory, the Fanny reference came from the name of a famous prostitute, real or fictitional I am not sure, (?) Fanny Hill, a name with a built-in pun. The book has fallen out of copywrite and may be freely downloaded from

    Knowing the confused morals of the US and their origins quite well, Congress must have banned Fanny Hill, but forgotten an amendment that would have stopped the next week’s production of 700 pron (we never use the real word) videos.

    2.”You notice I have not mentioned any of my language mistakes on here. Of course, that could be because I never make any. Or…”

    Well, in common with my openess on sexuality (yes I do love stockings, but only wore them once in public hiddden under my trousers – nothing compares to that silky feel and the danger of being found out), my biggest “faux pas” (“false pace” or “false step” literally) was at a dinner held by my fiancee’s parents in my honour. I had burnished my schoolboy French into something that resembled a conversational ability, but on being asked if I wanted more (again!) of the wonderful food my wife-to-be’s mother had cooked (it was superb -simple, but wonderful, yum-yum (which may mean “going to the toilet” in Afghanistani, but I wouldn’t know)), I replied with a Franglais (an English expression translated directly into French -NOT recommended at all, never do that!). I said “I am full up, it was wonderful”, so in French I said “Je suis plain, c’etait magnifique, tres bon”. My mother-in-law to-be looked confused. My wife-to be looked at me in surprise, possibly shock, and then fell off her chair laughing as she realised what I had said and (at least partially,) why.

    I had just explained to my would-be mother-in-law that I was pregnant, and that the runup had been fantastic.

    I guess my wife-to-be had a hard time explaining that her her mum. But her explanation worked. We are still married after

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