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Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Todd's keyboard
Date: March 08, 2018 05:47PM
Am teaching a series of classes to business people from Asia who are trying to understand the nuances of the English language. We are in Canada, so there is a focus on Canadianisms, then the US, and then British.

For example, one of the people mentioned she heard the phrase, "preaching to the choir" and had to rely heavily on context to understand the meaning.

Other examples:

The phrase "I have to go see a man about a dog" is completely lost on someone who understands all of the words, but doesn't get the idiom.

Canadianisms that baffled me (a native English speaker from the US) when I first heard them were:

fill your boots
Bob's your uncle.

Any others you might share?

thanks, Todd's idiomatic keyboard
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: freeradical
Date: March 08, 2018 05:56PM
Take a shower
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: JoeH
Date: March 08, 2018 06:07PM
Quote
freeradical
Take a shower

Isn't that "Took a bath"?
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Speedy
Date: March 08, 2018 06:18PM
Quote
JoeH
Quote
freeradical
Take a shower

Isn't that "Took a bath"?

Golden.

>>

Most any idiom will require an explanation. I still explained certain idioms to my Mexican wife who has lived in this country for 40 years. So find a website offering idioms and their meanings and all are likely to be good examples.

[english.stackexchange.com]



Saint Cloud, Minnesota, where the weather is wonderful even when it isn't.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/08/2018 06:22PM by Speedy.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: ztirffritz
Date: March 08, 2018 06:26PM
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.

All the faith he had had had had no effect on the outcome of his life.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

Read rhymes with lead, and read rhymes with lead, but read and lead don’t rhyme, and neither do read and lead.



**************************************
MacResource User Map: [www.zeemaps.com]#



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 03/08/2018 06:43PM by ztirffritz.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Steve G.
Date: March 08, 2018 06:31PM
"need a B & W Laser printer to do Proofs"
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: hal
Date: March 08, 2018 06:40PM
An English learner once asked to explain the difference between 'could have,' would have,' and 'should have'. That was a brain twister...

There are lists on the internet...

A hot potato

A penny for your thoughts

Actions speak louder than words

Add insult to injury

At the drop of a hat

Back to the drawing board

Ball is in your court

Barking up the wrong tree

Be glad to see the back of

Beat around the bush

Best of both worlds

Best thing since sliced bread

Bite off more than you can chew

Blessing in disguise

Burn the midnight oil

Can't judge a book by its cover

Costs an arm and a leg

Cross that bridge when you come to it

Cry over spilt milk

Curiosity killed the cat

Cut corners

Devil's Advocate
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: DP
Date: March 08, 2018 06:49PM
And I actually read your subject to mean that you're looking for phrases to intentionally confuse non-native speakers. Ah, English...





Disclaimer: This post is checked for correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Any attempts at humor are solely the responsibility of the author and bear no claim that any and all readers will approve or appreciate said attempt at humor.
My name is DP, and I approve this message.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Ammo
Date: March 08, 2018 06:52PM
I’d like to help, but I’ve got a frog in my throat.



Inside every old person is a young person saying "what happened?"

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.” - Reinhold Niebuhr

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.” George Orwell
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Rick-o
Date: March 08, 2018 07:08PM
This thread ain't over until the fat lady sings.



"After a time, you may find, that having is not so pleasing a thing after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."

- Mr. Spock



“There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”

- Walter Reuther
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Filliam H. Muffman
Date: March 08, 2018 07:10PM
Any subject line posted by Newt. grinning smiley

Another good source would be Yogi Berra.



In tha 360. [url=Zee Maps Now requires a subscription/payment to work]MRF User Map[/url]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/08/2018 07:11PM by Filliam H. Muffman.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Rick-o
Date: March 08, 2018 07:13PM
> Another good source would be Yogi Berra.

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded!"

- Yogi Berra



"After a time, you may find, that having is not so pleasing a thing after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true."

- Mr. Spock



“There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”

- Walter Reuther
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: pRICE cUBE
Date: March 08, 2018 07:14PM
POMTL Peeing on my toe laughing.

Are you smoking crunch?

Go broke saving money.




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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: $tevie
Date: March 08, 2018 07:18PM
Tongue in cheek.



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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: wurm
Date: March 08, 2018 07:21PM
Quote
hal
An English learner once asked to explain the difference between 'could have,' would have,' and 'should have'.

I give the person extra points for not saying 'could of,' would of,' and 'should of'. Far too many native English speakers can't even get that right.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Ombligo
Date: March 08, 2018 08:06PM
"Play it by ear" confused my wife for about three years.



“No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.”
-- François de La Rochefoucauld

"WE CALL BS!" -- Emma Gonzalez
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: ka jowct
Date: March 08, 2018 08:11PM
Quote
wurm
Quote
hal
An English learner once asked to explain the difference between 'could have,' would have,' and 'should have'.

I give the person extra points for not saying 'could of,' would of,' and 'should of'. Far too many native English speakers can't even get that right.

Amen to that.

I hear certain idiomatic expressions mangled regularly. “The pit of my stomach” becomes “I had a pit in my stomach” or “set foot” becomes “step foot”. The jock types on ESPN frequently say that something “plays a factor.” No, you boneheads: Something can BE a factor or something can PLAY a role: “playing a factor” is nonsense. i worked with someone who said “down packed” instead of “down pat” and “whelps” instead of “welts”.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Article Accelerator
Date: March 08, 2018 08:41PM
Quote
Todd's keyboard
Any others you might share?

[www.phrases.org.uk]

…and as a big list: [www.phrases.org.uk]

A small list of Canadianisms with translation into "American":

[www.cs.cmu.edu]
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Article Accelerator
Date: March 08, 2018 08:43PM
Quote
wurm
Quote
hal
An English learner once asked to explain the difference between 'could have,' would have,' and 'should have'.

I give the person extra points for not saying 'could of,' would of,' and 'should of'. Far too many native English speakers can't even get that right.

I could care less.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Article Accelerator
Date: March 08, 2018 08:44PM
Quote
Ombligo
"Play it by ear" confused my wife for about three years.

Hmm…that's funny 'cause I've told my wife that she cooks by ear.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: tenders
Date: March 08, 2018 09:18PM
The tough coughs as he ploughs the rough dough.

Or, on International Talk Like A Pirate Day, “Aaargh, the tough coughs as he ploughs the rough dough.”
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Todd's keyboard
Date: March 08, 2018 10:16PM
Thanks for the feedback (and please keep them a'comin).

We stared out by discussing Conditionals and drifted into modals (would, could, should... ) this morning.

Most folks became completely confused by the phrase "under par" meaning not good enough. In golf, it's great to be under par. Anywhere else, it's not good.

Yours until the United States drinks Canada dry.

Todd's keyboard
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: rgG
Date: March 08, 2018 10:18PM
Here’s a good southern one: He was fixing to leave.

Or, like a duck on a June bug.

I could go on, but I won’t. grinning smiley





Roswell, GA (Atlanta suburb)
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: jh
Date: March 08, 2018 10:41PM
Bless his/her heart
That dog ain't gonna hunt
What in the sam hill
Fast as greased lighting
Three on the tree
Four on the floor
Drop a dime on him/her
Not playing with a full deck
He/She is one quart low
Not the sharpest knife in the drawer
Stop on a dime and give you 9 cents change
Quiet as a church mouse
Picking 'em up and laying 'em down
Older than dirt
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: srf1957
Date: March 08, 2018 11:00PM
Try telling a Canadian to "go eat another donut "v.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: davester
Date: March 08, 2018 11:25PM
I think it's time to fish or cut bait



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Racer X
Date: March 08, 2018 11:34PM
Quote
Ammo
I’d like to help, but I’ve got a frog in my throat.

What's his name? smiley-shocked003
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: mrbigstuff
Date: March 08, 2018 11:46PM
I always laughed when I asked my sons a question containing a negative, such as, "you don't want to eat that?" Their response was, "yes." :-)
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: 3d
Date: March 09, 2018 05:39AM
Instead of bombarding them with wacky phrases, you should focus on the ones still commonly used today. Some of the phrases listed above, I've only heard in movies/tv or read in books. Not in real life.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: bazookaman
Date: March 09, 2018 06:48AM
I love Bob's your uncle. I've used it for years. And I can probably count on one hand the number of people who have NOT looked at me like I've lost my mind.

I remember one night back in the olden days of high school when some friends and I were playing D&D. The DM at some point said "You come to a fork in the road. What do you do?" All the players looked at each other and almost in unison said "We pick it up!"




__________________________________
Never underestimate the predictability of stupidity
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: DeusxMac
Date: March 09, 2018 10:57AM
Quote
Todd's keyboard
Thanks for the feedback (and please keep them a'comin).

We stared out by discussing Conditionals and drifted into modals (would, could, should... ) this morning.

Most folks became completely confused by the phrase "under par" meaning not good enough. In golf, it's great to be under par. Anywhere else, it's not good.

Yours until the United States drinks Canada dry.

Todd's keyboard


par - noun
Stock Market: the face value of a stock or other security, as distinct from its market value.
• (also par of exchange) the recognized value of one country's currency in terms of another's.

above (or below or under) par
better (or worse) than is usual or expected: poor nutrition can leave you feeling below par.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: DeusxMac
Date: March 09, 2018 11:06AM
Quote
hal

Actions speak louder than words

Blessing in disguise

Cross that bridge when you come to it

I don't think these, in context, would "confuse" anyone who understood the individual words.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Filliam H. Muffman
Date: March 09, 2018 02:19PM
Make a quiz where they have to decide if it's a proper idiom or a malaprop, but it could require an extensive vocabulary list.

We'll burn that bridge when we get to it.
Lead the way, and we'll precede.



In tha 360. [url=Zee Maps Now requires a subscription/payment to work]MRF User Map[/url]
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: mrbigstuff
Date: March 09, 2018 02:42PM
Quote
srf1957
Try telling a Canadian to "go eat another donut "v.

Don't forget the rejoinder to that sentence!
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Don C
Date: March 09, 2018 02:55PM
Going up the hall vs going down the hall
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Acer
Date: March 09, 2018 03:00PM
How about some Pennsylvania Dutchisms? Too local?

It needs done.
Quit your roochin'.
Red up the kitchen.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: artie67
Date: March 09, 2018 03:10PM
The Word Detective by Evan Morris is the book for you. It is informative and a joy to read. It's based on his newspaper column and Blog.

[www.amazon.com]

"Bob's your uncle" is in the book. In 1887, when British prime minister Robert Cecil (also known as Lord Salisbury) decided to appoint Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive post of chief secretary for Ireland.
Not lost on the British public was the fact that Lord Salisbury just happened to be better known to Balfour as "Uncle Bob". The public saw the act as blatant nepotism and "Bob is your Uncle" became a popular sarcastic comment applied to any situation where the outcome was preordained by favoritism.

Preaching to the choir is not in the book. Basically, it is the preacher during a second service turning to the choir telling them something they heard in the first service. Hence, it's why as you grow older you tend to preface with "have it mentioned it to you before?" Thus avoiding
preaching to the choir.
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: Article Accelerator
Date: March 09, 2018 04:03PM
Quote
artie67
The Word Detective by Evan Morris is the book for you…"Bob's your uncle" is in the book…Preaching to the choir" is not in the book.

Both expressions are covered in the link I posted above:

[www.phrases.org.uk]
[www.phrases.org.uk]
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Re: Looking for English phrases that confuse non-native speakers
Posted by: RAMd®d
Date: March 10, 2018 05:33PM
I could care less.


I clicked on the thread specifically to post that, AA.

While many offered would certainly elicit an WTF? reaction, I think that one genuinely fits the bill. For an instant it looks like it makes sense, but then...




When a good man is hurt,
all who would be called good
must suffer with him.

You and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.

There is no safety for honest men
except by believing all possible evil
of evil men.

We don’t do focus groups. They just ensure that you don’t offend anyone, and produce bland inoffensive products. —Sir Jonathan Ive

-An armed society is a polite society.
And hope is a lousy defense.

You make me pull, I'll put you down.

Mister, that's a ten-gallon hat on a twenty-gallon head.

I *love* Sigs. It's Glocks I hate.
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