Did She Just Really Say That?

An American Knob

We’ve all done it, right? Landed somewhere new and confidentially jumped into a conversation only to discover that maybe we kind of had things a little bit wrong. The pronunciation? The concept? The awkward pause and the sideways glance.

One of my most spectacular fails was at a conference in Sydney in my early twenties. I was full of excitement and ready to explore the city when I landed in the hotel lobby. Feeling very important I swaggered over to the concierge and asked how to get to Circular Quay. Except I didn’t. I asked, out loud, in front of an audience, how to get to Circular Kway.

I knew what I’d done immediately but it was too late. I was that girl. The girl that was about to become the topic of drinks after work on Friday night. Remember the chick who asked where Circular Kway was?

One of my favourite co-workers in Canada was an Aussie guy called Damien. He was what we’d refer to in Oz as a bit of spunk, a genuinely beautiful man with a twinkle in his eye and a keen sense of fun and adventure. Damien worked in sales, whether it was ice to eskimos or condoms to catholics – he could sell it.  As a national recruitment company we were pleased to hear that we’d won the contract for Cirque du Soleil, we were in Canada and it was a huge national account. It gave us great prestige and it was a good name dropper on a sales call. Which was exactly why Damien thought he’d bring it up on a client visit. In a broad Aussie accent he told our Canadian clients that we of course would now be doing the recruitment for “Circus Olay”. The olay was said with the gusto of a spanish bullfighter. From memory the coffee I was drinking came out of my nose.

And then there are the moments where you’re sure you’re saying it right. And you are, or you would be if you were at home. Your words now have no meaning, or worse, a different meaning.

My long Australian “pants”, instantly becomes underwear to British friends and colleagues. Which is fine until you ask your boss if he’s wearing new pants. Being pissed in Australia is a happy moment involving alcohol, not so much in America. And I learnt the hard way not to ask if the school provided rubbers for my daughter or if we’d need to buy them.

Perhaps my favourite, was listening to an American friend talking to a group of Brits about her antics on the last day of school where she and her friends “greased the knobs”. I knew she meant the door handles, but those few seconds were just priceless.

A British Knob

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