2 May 2014, TV = 755.1 hours
While writing up Tuesday’s post I reread Stan Carey’s piece on pseudotranslations. Some of the commenters recalled mispronouncing words in a way that had grossly altered the meaning of what they were trying to say, and in some cases the resulting language was sexual or even obscene.
I was reminded of the time in class at AUA when one of my Thai teachers, in discussing the serial killer from Silence of the Lambs, mispronounced Hannibal as “honey balls”.
I think I was the only native English speaker present, but at any rate if anyone else “got it” they were surely doing the same thing I was: concentrating on keeping a straight face, making sure not to fall out of the chair & start ROFLing….
In the interests of umm…full disclosure…I should note that I’ve made similar gaffes in Thai. I’ve already written about the time I thanked a friend of mine, a woman several years older than myself, for being such a great prostitute (I had meant to say tour guide); a more recent example involved another unintentional pun, in which I tried to repeat a phrase whose meaning was something like (temperature) hot enough to break/rupture the liver but accidentally substituted for liver a certain anatomical part specific to women – and again, as my luck would have it, my interlocutor was a woman several years older than myself.
I doubt that off-color mistakes are more common than any other type of misspeaking – but they probably tend to be a lot more memorable!
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Note: My Thai teacher altered the pronunciation of Hannibal in several ways, but I’m struck by her having added an S to the end. From what I’ve observed Thai syllables don’t end in S – I think it’s an “impossible” sound, in the same way that in English it’s not possible to have PT at the beginning of a syllable (which presumably accounts for our peculiarly P-less pronunciation of pterodactyl). Anyway, I think “balls” would be a difficult word for most Thais to pronounce correctly – unless they’d practiced or had experience with a language that, like English, can end syllables in S.
This might be a case of hypercorrection, as might be another teacher’s tendency to pronounce the Thai cell phone service provider DTAC (usually pronounced “dee tack”) as DTACS (“dee tax”).