It is easy when you are abroad to forget that some gestures and attempts to communicate – assuming you cannot converse in the local dialect – can be unintentionally offensive. In order to keep American travellers on the straight and narrow, Rick Steves – who offers a selection of European holidays – tries to stop Americans offending us sensitive European types, and has some top tips for his travellers in his travel skills guidebook that may amuse you. You can find them here.
Avoiding the gesture minefield to concentrate only on the written word, The Washington Post recently held a ‘Mensa Invitational’, which invites readers to take any word from the dictionary, then alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, then supplying a new definition.
The winners included:
Giraffiti – vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
Sarchasm – the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
Decafalon – the gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
Caterpallor – the colour you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.
They also published winning submissions to its annual contest in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.
Flabbergasted – appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
Abdicate – to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
Negligent – to absentmindedly answer the door when wearing only a nightgown.
Balderdash – a rapidly receding hairline.
Even when you’re using basic English it is easy, as the Two Ronnies ably demonstrate, to get things very wrong.
For those who follow cricket – a clever wordsmith recently came up with the topical headline ‘Dumb Slog Millionaire’ to describe Kevin Pietersen, as opposed to the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
(He was dismissed foolishly in a recent test, and will receive over £1m for playing in the Indian 20/20 cricket series). Good work!
Curious facts and quotes
“Art is whatever you can get away with”.
“I shut my eyes in order to see”.