Thursday, October 18, 2012

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.

(I'm having a busy week, so this is a re-post about something that still makes me laugh.)
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:

Beksi

Bepsi

Pepsi
(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!

3 comments:

TJ said...

By making one sound wrong, I called a student garlic. This year I have a student's name that if I pronounce it wrong, I will call him a donkey. I have decided to just call him by his last name with Mr. in front. It can be frustrating but it is good to laugh about it. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

During our first months in Turkey a 10 year old girl and her 6 year old brother were on the elevator with me and my daughter. Being the friendly foreigner, I asked their names. I was shocked when the boy quietly mumbled "Abdul" but what sounded to me like the word for "stupid!" Before getting offended that he might be calling me a name,I asked, "Excuse me?!" He repeated, "Abdullah"--which my foreign ears translated as "They are stupid." Instead of asking him to repeat one more time I made the blunder of repeating what I had heard--and the sister died laughing that I would think her brother's name was "stupid"! No one is so stupid to name their kid "stupid"--and only a "stupid" foreigner would be confused! :)

OliveTree said...

Those are both pretty funny stories, and I definitely think "stupid" beats "frog" in the ridiculous, this-can't-be-it name category!