Hilariously Awkward Language Faux Pas

Hilariously Awkward Language Faux Pas
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By Julia Pond, Managing Editor, and Becky Mahan, Editor

Traveling can be super awkward. Not only are you trying to navigate your way around an unknown place, probably in desperate need of a shower, but you're also trying to navigate a new culture and language. And more often than not, hilarity ensues when it turns out that a word with a perfectly innocent meaning in your language has a ridiculously dirty or rude cognate in the place you're visiting. Have you ever asked if food had any "preservatives" in Spanish or Italian? If so, congratulations! You actually asked if there were any condoms in it.

Here are more of our favorite examples of hilarious double entendres:

English vs. English


In the U.S., this is the item of clothing you wear on your bottom half.
But in the U.K., it's your underwear (as in, the clothing beneath the clothing you - hopefully - wear on your bottom half.) You can also say something is "pants," to mean it sucks. Upshot: the 'no pants' subway ride, pictured above, would be way, way more intense in London.


In the good ol' US of A, a thong is a piece of butt cheek-revealing underwear (A.K.A. "butt floss.")
In Australia, your thongs are your flip-flops, you dirty Yanks.


This is old-school U.S. slang for a condom, which still makes most Americans giggle when British people use it to mean 'eraser.'


Americans wear fanny packs (well, we used to) -- pouches worn around our waists to hold items. But when you're in the U.K., please make sure you say "bum bag," or you'll be referring to a woman's genitals!


In America, this means drinking two alcoholic drinks at the same time.
In the U.K., this is quite an uncomfortable-sounding sexual act.
Many's the American who casually blurts out at a party that they're double-fisting...to the shock and mortification of any Brits in the room.


In the U.K. you can ask to "nick a fag," which does not, thankfully, mean to cut a homosexual, but to bum a cigarette.

"Money shot"

In the U.S., this generally means an embarrassing porn scene.
tour guides lovingly mean, "great photograph!"
Imagine the faces of the American tour group as their guide shouted, "Smile! I need the money shot!"

English vs. Other Languages

Whew. As if we needed further proof that the English language is ridiculous. But watch out: your fledgling attempts at Spanish, Italian and German (among others) can also get you in trouble - here are some mistakes to avoid:

"To sweep"

English: clean a floor.
Italian: to f***.


English: what you use to open the door.
Italian: to f***.
(Notice a pattern?)


English: drive very fast.
Swedish: to fart.


English: a thoughtful present.
German: poison. (Not so thoughtful.)
And in Scandinavian languages, "gift" can mean both "poison" and "marriage"....we're not going to touch that one.


Don't panic when "slut" appears on the screen at the end of Swedish movie. It means "end." Likewise, "slutstation" is not what a dirty American might think - it's the terminal station on a train route.

Wrong Words & Pronunciations

We applaud you for trying to use the native language - but heed these particular cautions:

Trying to speak Italian?

Don't forget to drag out the ennn sound when you order penne pasta (the alternative is ordering penis pasta) -- or ask how many anni someone has (how old they are), or you might be asking them how many anuses they are endowed with.

A "pisolino" is a nap. Be sure to pronounce the long 'o' in the middle - if you get lazy and say "pisellino," you're using a slang term for a tiny penis.

Keep "fico" (fig) in the masculine form -- if you say "fica," it's a pretty vulgar term for a woman's nether regions. (Although, ironically, "figo" can be used to compliment a man's attractiveness...use with caution.)

Trying to speak Spanish?

Make sure as you yawn to say "cansado" - if you say "estoy casado," it means "I'm married."

Don't try to say you're "exitada" if you mean excited! That means I'm horny - you want to say "emocionada."

Likewise, don't say you're "embarazada" if you're humiliated -- everyone will congratulate you on your pregnancy. (And if you're a dude, this could get really awkward.) Say "avergonzada."

Trying to speak French?

Ordering beets at a restaurant? Don't try to be cute and add a French accent to the English word, or you'll have just told the table you want a man's appendage. The French word for the root vegetable is "betteraves."

Make sure you say "J'ai chaud" ("I'm warm") and not "Je suis chaud" ("I'm horny"). (Basically you're saying, "I have hot," not "I am hot!")

Likewise, "baisser" (to lower) should not be mistaken for "baiser" (to F***).

After all this, all we can think of to say is....good luck!

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