Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Not-So-Euphemistic Euphemism

A few weeks ago, one of my students and I were talking about a rather unusual Cambodian delicacy known as “Khmer Cheese” (which is basically mushed up rotten fish, but I won’t go into that….) She told me that she absolutely loves eating this, but tries to limit herself because if she eats it all the time, her skin will break out. I told her that in my country, we like to blame skin problems on chocolate and potato chips. She thought that was interesting, and we eventually moved onto another topic.

The next week, this student walked into class with the biggest smile on her face. As soon as she sat down she looked at me and said, “You have potato chip on your face."

Well, her class is right after lunch, so I immediately put my hands on my face and tried to wipe off whatever food could have possibly been there.

When I did this, she said, “No, no. Potato Chip!” and began pointing to her forehead.
I must have looked really confused because she finally gave up and said, “Pimple!” Apparently I had a small breakout on my forehead that I had forgotten about.

My student looked quite confused as she explained, “You told me last week that in your country you call these potato chips.”

Ooops! I guess I hadn’t been very clear in my explanation after all! After laughing for a minute or two over the obvious miscommunication, I explained to my thoroughly embarrassed student what I had really meant in the previous conversation. Poor thing! At least she had a good attitude about it, though. All she said was, “I think it is good that I tried this on you first and not someone else. That would be embarrassing.” (Of course, I’m wondering when blatantly pointing out a blemish on someone’s face wouldn’t be embarrassing!)

*I’m currently in the process of writing a post about some interesting cultural differences. Hopefully I’ll get it up in the next few days, along with some more student profiles. Speaking of students, please keep my student Ly eang in your prayers. She’s in the hospital with encephalitis. I’m planning on calling her tomorrow to hear how she’s doing. I’ll let you know more later.

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