Use the Words You Have

UniverseProjects told us about his Russian wife trying to ask for a tape measure. He knew what she meant. Learning a different language is hard, and it takes years to learn enough words to express everything you need to express. Meanwhile, you do the best you can with the words you have. And we can usually figure out what you mean, but the effort can be amusing.

Everyone has an example, from all different languages. Here are some from the comments at imgur.

Tape measure: centimeter ribbon

Ice cubes: very cold water with corners

Shell: snail houses

Wrists: hand ankles

Napkin: face paper

Volcano: fire mountain (which turned out to be literally correct in Japanese)

Muffin: bread mushroom

Bathroom: ceramics department

Madejyalook took some of the funnier phrases and illustrated them.

Continue reading for more.

Giraffe: yellow horse

Mist: tiny rain but lots of them

GPS: talking map

Toes: foot fingers

Wreath: holiday door donut with glitters

Reindeer: Christmas llama

Duvet cover: blanket sheet

And more examples from the reddit thread.

Tape measure: bendy ruler

Airhorn: spray scream

Fart: pooped air

Tablecloth: table blanket



Bad hard drive: “Your computer's thoughts are finished. Computer isn't remembering now."

Gloves: hand shoes

Rewind: fast backwards

Vocabulary: dictionary word thing

Mopping: sweeping with water

Veal: son of beef

Headset: voice helmet

Aquarium: fish museum

Frostbite: cold eat your body

Lambs: sheep kittens

Globe: round map

Kittens: cat puppies

Stable: horse garage

Deep fry: oil boil

Ducks: quack birds



Feathers: chicken leaves

Gas can: petrol suitcase

Pony: compressed horse

Bury: digging it shut

Elbow: arm knee

Pufferfish: water hedgehog

Infertile: unbearable, inconceivable, impregnable

Greenhouse: sunlight plant building

Crutch: armpit support stick

Colander: pasta-stop-water-go

Here's another attempt from UniverseProjects' wife.


See more images here.


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when my daughter was little she wanted to wear shorts but couldn't think of the word so she asked for 'short-sleeved pants'.

In French, toes are foot-fingers, a peninsula is 'almost island', roller coaster translates as 'Russian mountain'...There's a million of these, and I can't think of anymore, lol!
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I read these to my husband, to see if he'd guess the word. He figured them all out until I got to "armpit support stick." He immediately came up with "deodorant." I guess context helps.
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Check out Twaggies' very funny clip:

Give a Man a Fish - Twaggies by Twaggies
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