When traveling, take care with language discrepancies…

shift-happens1Have you ever had an embarrassing cultural moment? Perhaps in which your idea of what a word meant was quite different from someone else? Most of the time these hiccups in cultural expectations are no big deal. No blushing of cheeks should happen if you call a lorry a truck or a jumper a sweater. But have you ever turned heads?

I did. In public. In Ireland.

I went to a set dance in Skibbereen, County Cork. For those of you that don’t know, a set dance is similar to a celidh (kay-lee) minus the live music and tea & cakes. A caller announces the name of a dance, for instance, the Antrim Square. Over recorded music 4 couples make a cross and dance 3 dances within the set. Some sets have up to 6 dances. Each dance builds on the moves of the previous one and some of the patterns are quite complicated. All ages participate, but there is a high attendance of people over 50.

I innocently decided to wear my Shift Happens shirt. I don’t know what I was thinking. This shirt turns heads no matter where I go. For some reason on this warm day in June it didn’t enter my conscious mind to reconsider.

When I arrived people kept looking at me. I did know some of the people and others I’d met once or twice, so I chalked it up to that. Or was it the fact that I’m large-chested? Or as the night wore on, sweating profusely from the dancing?

Kat&Liam.Finally, a friend of mine, Liam Barrett, took me aside. Liam is in his 60’s and an incredible dancer who loves to tell stories. He informed me that “shift” means, frankly, to have sex with someone.

Liam went on to tell the woman across from us this newest joke. She listened and without missing a beat said, “I didn’t even see the F in it!”. Me, I was blushing and giggling like a schoolgirl.

shift-happens-so-be-resilientQuestion answered. Some people thought my shirt said Shit. Others thought it was a crude joke. Perhaps some saw the word change within it. Or still others might have referenced their computer. I’ll never know. I do know that if I hadn’t been so hot from dancing I would have put on my jacket to hide my indiscretion:)

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2 Responses to When traveling, take care with language discrepancies…

  1. Diane Birckbichler says:

    Love this one, especially as a language teacher. What a difference a letter makes and a culture.

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