Pi Attitude Zone: Flexibility

Same Words, Different Meanings

Sometimes the same phrase can have two diametrically opposite meanings, depending on which side of the North Atlantic you are on.

Take the simple expression “That’s history”.

To an American, the words mean that whatever is being referred to is no longer relevant or worth thinking or talking about.

To many Europeans, however, the phrase “That’s history” signifies that they are talking about a highly relevant fact that may have had an important causal effect on something significant that is happening today.  The statement resonates with the thought that the event in question should be studied in detail by historians, politicians and the general public, so that lessons can be learned and mistakes of “historic” proportions can be avoided in the future.

Another example, this one from the Latin languages, is the word “Exquisito”.  Say it to a Spanish-speaker, and they will understand that you are describing something as “exquisite”.  But say the same word to a Portuguese-speaking Brazilian, and he will frown:  you’ve just described the thing as “weird”.

Same words, same phrases.  Radically different meanings.

Pi thinks this kind of linguistic dichotomy could provide important clues to cultural differences between countries that otherwise have a language in common.

It would be nice if there was some kind of dictionary of the words and phrases that keep otherwise similar nations in a permanent state of mutual puzzlement.

Zone: Flexibility Country: Multiple Geographies Product – Other