Friday, September 30, 2011

What Was Your name? Mine is Mud!

Overseas living gives us plenty of opportunities to laugh at ourselves. After all, it is humbling to move overseas and suddenly find that in your new country you're less competent than most children. Sometimes even grasping people’s names when you meet them is difficult, let alone trying to have a conversation afterwards. So for me, it’s therapeutic to be able to enjoy a good laugh, even at my own expense.

When I lived in El Salvador, people had a hard time with my name: Betsy.  
The combination of “t” followed by “s” does not exist in Spanish.  So people came up with several versions of Betsy:



(They all knew the drink. It sounds like Betsy, doesn’t it???)

And then Peksi!
(This is what some El Salvadoran country folk call that drink: Peksi Cola.)

It was pointless to correct people because they just could not hear the difference between “Betsy” and “Peksi.” Sometimes my husband and I would laugh until our sides split over the different things people called me.  After 5 years, more and more people learned to say “Betsy.”

When we came to Turkey, the tables turned.
I was the one trying to grasp unfamiliar names.  Turks’ names have meanings; often people’s names are ordinary words: Light, Universe, Star, or Poet. By now, I’ve learned most Turkish names like Bülent, Pınar, Özge, Işıl, Emre, etc. Once in a while, however, I still come upon someone with an unfamiliar name, and it is so awkward to have to ask what someone’s name is a second time, or to have to repeat it to see if I got it.

One of my all-time most embarrassing moments happened about five years ago at church. A Christian brother came up to introduce me to a girl who was visiting for the first time.

“This is Tuğba,” he said.

We chatted a few moments, and then I said the most ridiculous thing that has ever come out of my mouth: “Well, it was nice talking with you.  Maybe we’ll see you again.  Your name was Kurbağa, right?”

The moment I said it, I wished the ground would split in two and swallow me.  You see, “kurbağa” means FROG in Turkish.  So I was basically saying, “Your name is Frog, right?” As if I was such a dumb foreigner that I actually thought someone’s name could be Frog!  Turks can be named Spring, Soul, General, or Strong, but no one is named FROG!

The girl was incredibly polite.  Without even blinking, she said, “No, my name is Tugba.” To this day, I don’t know how she kept from laughing out loud in my face.

The best thing about this story is that it struck my funny bone.  I laughed for days afterwards about how ridiculous it was to ask a person if their name was Frog.

What about you? Have you had any funny experiences while travelling or living abroad?  Leave a comment and tell me about it. I can always use more laughs!


Karin said...

Now being on furlough for a few months my children love to tell all my funnies to our new friends. The worst is the events/situations I don't know about or click what I have just said etc....there must be quite a few. The one that comes to mind is me telling our new neighbor that I have a husband when he asked if he and his family could come over that evening to meet us. I meant to say: "My husband is here, talk to him!"

Tricia said...

Yes, I can relate. While in Indonesia nobody could pronounce "Tricia," so I'd get everything from What??? to "Trash" to "Jhrushan" to respond to. After a while, my friend and I got so tired of strangers, usually men, asking us our name and address that we made up fake names. I remember writing down my name, Butch Johnson, and my very silly address, for one poor fellow.

OliveTree said...

Thanks Karin and Tricia for adding some cheer to my day with your stories.

I'm glad you have a husband, Karin, to go along with the three kids.

And Tricia, I think I'd rather be called Butch than Trash too!

Columba Lisa said...

So funny! I didn't have to travel to for my name to generate confusion. During both my English childhood and my adulthood in the U.S., "Columba" has been humiliatingly tweaked. I've been called "Colombo," "Columbus," "Columbine," and even "Mr. Columbo"! After painstakingly spelling my name, I'm often asked, "So what's your first name?" Finally I gave up and switched to Lisa!

Amy said...

So funny, I have done so many silly things like that but recently we had a new missionary come and his name is the same as my husband, but for some reason I introduced him to someone and called him an totally different name and now I keep calling him that but not on purpose, so my recent mistake is not cross-cultural! :)

Amy @ Missional Mama

OliveTree said...

Funny stories. Is that why you go by Lisa? I love the name Columba, but that's hilarious about people thinking it's your first name.

Amy, that story sounds like something I'd do for sure!

Shanda said...

People never got my name: In Africa I was always Sheenda. In Central America it was Sandra. Sometimes they would say shandra. There HAD to be an R before the A. One time my drivers license was given to me with an r. I corrected the official and told him there was no r. He asked, "Are you sure?"

Kris Thede said...

The most interesting one I saw at a hospital here was a child named in the local language 'kidney'. Do not have a clue what the mom was thinking. People here generally do NOT have names of common objects. Around USA election times we get many babies named after the front runners. Fauche.

us5 said...

it's taken me the longest time to be able to straight-facedly call one of the maintenance men here by his name: *Ding Dong*. i might rather be called *mud* than *Ding Dong*! ;)

OliveTree said...

I could do another blog post with all these funny stories! I'm really glad my name's not "Kidney" or "Ding Dong!"

Thanks for all your stories.