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Anecdote: Italian pick-up lines

Type: Anecdote

Tricia Gilmour gives two anecdotes of translation and mis-pronunciation.

Being a blonde female teacher in Italy is certainly an eye-opening experience. The lack of political correctness in many companies never ceases to amaze me. I was teaching a partner in an large international company and we were doing the construction of sentences using 'I am looking forward to seeing you', 'I am looking forward to receiving further information from you', 'I am looking forward to meeting you', and so on. I asked him to give me some other examples using this construction. He proceeded by asking me how to say 'spogliare' in English. I was forced to look it up in the dictionary, as my Italian is not very good, and explained to him that he had obviously made a mistake as 'spogliare' meant to undress. As soon as I saw the cheeky glimmer in his eye, I knew that I was in error and he confirmed this by stating: 'Yes, I am looking forward to undressing you!'. My only means of recovery was to say to him: 'Well your pick-up lines are excellent, now let's work on your Business English!'

The other matter which made me smile was a mispronunciation of the word 'unique' by one of my favourite students. I felt obliged to tell him that people may misunderstand him if he continued to pronounce the word as 'eunuch'. He looked at me with a shocked expression and said, 'Is eunuch a bad word?' and I said, 'No, of course not. It simply means a castrated male.' To which he quickly responded, 'Well, I'd hate to hear your definition of a bad word then!'.

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