It Goes Both Ways: English Expressions (my) Italian Can’t Conquer

On Monday I shared three words that were the hardest for me to pronounce in Italian-not because they are difficult, per se, but because no one would correct me … “cause it was so darn cute.”

Well, you know what they say about paybacks?

He he he … . Ahem.

Many people suggest language learners should watch movies or listen to songs to increase their vocabulary, work on their pronunciation and to increase their understanding of the spoken language.

And so was the case with my husband.

In fact, he is fluent in English, can converse on any subject and can even follow two conversations at the same time-a feat for anyone learning another language.

But sometimes he makes mistakes, too. And yes, I admit … I love them.

Like him, I find his gaffes to be endearing and I’ll be sad the day he corrects them for good.

But until then, we’ll all get a little chuckle.

One of P’s original blunders comes from a long-running TV show and one of his favorite movies … Bad Boys.

You can imagine how hard it was to hide a smile as he busted a move while singing … “Bad boys, bad boys, what I’m gonna do? What I’m gonna do when I come for you?”

Other famous one-liners from movies are often injected into everyday conversations, such as …

“Peppe, do you want some more coffee?”

“No, I’ll pass,” he says. “I pass on grass.”

Or sometimes it comes out during a battle with our nine-year nephew …

“Cole,” he’ll warn him. “You are going down! Downtown to China town.”

Sometimes it isn’t a bad movie line at all, but rather a little grammatical inversion that is all the more charming.

“Cherrrrrrye,” he’ll say, with at least a dozen R’s, “Can I confess you something?”

Of course, the first time he said this fear set in, I took a mighty gulp and whispered, “Yes, go on …” afraid of what he might say. But now I know his “confessions” are nothing more than “I think the pasta sucked,” or maybe “I am so damn tired.”

And then there is my new personal favorite, a common expression learned from a movie but easily injected into everyday conversations when things don’t go his way … “Cherrye, I have shit out of luck!”

And on that note … buon weekend!

What are some of your favorite mistakes your foreign friends make in English? Please share.

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16 Responses
  1. haha.. that is so funny. Carlo sometimes does quote off the wall movie lines but luckily most of his mistakes are grammar or just plain pronunciation. He’s much better now but when I first met him, it was odd having some Italian guy ask me.. “Why you trippin'”.. just doesn’t sound right!

    His best mistakes were made at work when he first arrived in Ft. Worth. I’ll just say that when he said the words (in his thick Italian accent): sheet, fact, or coke.. well, they didn’t come out the right way.

    Ha, I can imagine … kinda like “beach,” eh?
    .-= Sonia´s last blog ..Date Night =-.

  2. You just illustrated why expats probably should avoid slang and swearing insofar as possible. BTW, I didn’t actually know why he was wrong in some of those. How bad is that?

    Ha, some of them weren’t actually “wrong,” per se, just not cool. He thinks since Robert DeNiro says them it must be ok!

  3. Meg

    Whenever I hit up stores for great sales, my husband says, “You have hungry eyes for the sales!” 🙂

    I love it! I think I might start using that one. 😉

  4. HA! I love it! I have a draft of the reverse version of this post (my mistakes in Italian) I’ll post one of these days :-). Sadly, Paola (my wife) no longer makes many mistakes, to the point that when she does, we don’t tell her because we don’t want them corrected. My favorite all time was that she used to call the Air Conditioner the ‘Conditionator’. My cousin from Milano used to get confused between Kitchen and Chicken, Shit and Sheet, Beach and Bitch, etc. Imagine the fun we had!

    I love the kitchen/chicken mistake. So charming … .

    .-= Michael @ Culture Discovery´s last blog ..Anglitaliano: English Words in Everyday Italian =-.

  5. casalba

    “Listen to your nose!” (When we’re having a cuddle and my nose is cold.) I’m thinking: “Didn’t realise it was making a noise. Was I snorting?” (Sorry, probably too much information.)

    Ahem. he he

  6. When Ale sees a car accident, he says, “Look, they have a gender bender” hehehe! No matter how many times I correct him, it just doesn’t stick, but it makes me chuckle every time.

    Oh that is cute!

  7. Love this piece. Italians love to make fun of our mistakes with their language and seldom are they called out on their little slips with the English language. Not really a language slip up but just a geography problem. My host dad in Florence thought himself the expert on USA geography. His son lived in San Diego so he was always talking about all the travel he had done in the USA. Being from Colorado, I know the Grand Canyon is not in my state. He kept insisting to me that he had been to Colorado when he visited the Grand Canyon. On numerous occasions he tried to tell me this. I kept quiet for awhile as it was somewhat endearing.

    Oh that is funny. I’ve had them argue me down over things like that, too, as well as politics, US laws, etc. Like for instance, did you know in America you have to PAY to vote? he he

    .-= Suzy´s last blog ..Suzy Stumbles Over Travel: Week of April 19, 2010 =-.

  8. Vanessa

    Using how instead of what and vice versa. I find unless second language speakers are REALLY good at english they often get them mixed up.

    My fav ‘wrong’ thing my husband says is ‘cross bumps’ instead of ‘hot cross buns’, and also i love his written everyday english as he spells things how they sound. Here is an excerpt from a recent sms: ‘whether here sheet too’. HA H AH AA.

    Oh that is cute. I like reading what P writes in English, too. He is coma-crazy when he types, as well.

  9. This is precious. Not only are some of their (I live in Florence) mistakes endearing, I find it gives insights into the grammar structure. “You should to try …” Ahh, I’m thinking, the use of the infinitive. Understanding why things are mis-pronounced, whether it was our respective language upbringings or accents adds to educational discussions in our language exchange efforts as well. My favs from a fav teacher: “Make-a-sense guyzzz??” or “Getta to know dees a grape” (wine students). BTW – Love your blog, Cherrye – it was my touchstone for my recent visit to Sicily (talk about a different dialect of Italian altogether!)

    Thank you, Valerie. I agree that you can learn some grammar by listening to their mistakes. Another big one is the gente / people mistake … is it plural? Is it singular? Plural? Mah! 🙂

    .-= Valerie´s last blog ..Battiato and Blisters =-.

  10. cherrye, this is way cute. i have to go back and read the english to italian version, because I have lots of catching-up too do on blog reading.
    thanks for today’s giggle

    Anything I can do … 🙂

  11. Dana

    I have a friend who apologizes by saying, “Sorry me, please.” Absolutely love it. I would never correct it.


  12. Lisa

    My beau used to say “only crab” if we had an argument and I never really bothered to ask him what he was talking about until we had been together for about a year. Turns out that he thought “holy crap” was really “only crab” and he continuously forgets the true saying and still says “Only crab!” whenever he is upset (or “only cow”)

    That is hilarious. I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say! ha ha ha

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