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FRESH OFF THE PLANE: Lost in translation!

I read an article in CanadaBound Immigrant a few months ago on words that were in common usage back home that mean something else in Canada, and was inspired to send in a few of my own from our experience during our early days in Canada!

It makes me laugh now, but there were so many occasions on which what we said seemed to make no sense to the person in front of us even though we were both speaking in English.

Like the time I asked a neighbour where the chemist was. We were then relatively new in Canada and one evening, my son began coughing. By dinner time, he was running a high fever and I thought we should take him to the doctor. Fortunately, just a few days before this, our neighbours had introduced us to the concept of walk-in clinics and family physicians. This was new to us, as back in India, we had to go to different doctors for different things. And the general practitioner, gynaecologist or paediatrician were not necessarily in the same place or even close to one another. So we had happily walked into the clinic and registered ourselves as new patients with one of the family physicians there.

However, as my wife reminded me, the clinic would be closed for the day by now. She suggested we pick up something for the fever and cough from the chemist and take him to the clinic the following morning.

Thus it was that I called our neighbour to ask him where the nearest chemist was. Why did I need a chemist, he wanted to know. To pick up some medicines for our son who had a fever, I explained. 

“I don’t know a chemist,” said Jacob, still sounding very confused. “And why would a chemist have medicines, anyway? Why don’t you go to a pharmacy?”

Luckily for all, I knew what a pharmacy was, as all of us know at least one pharmaceutical salesman in India!

“Yeah, a pharmacy,” I said. “Same thing, no?”

“Well, I never heard it called a chemist’s before,” said Jacob. “But I’ll take ya!”

Another time, the salesperson at a furniture store helped carry a few items out to the car for us.

“We’ll just put them in the dicky,” I said, as we reached the car.

“In the what?” he asked, looking around, puzzled.

“In the dicky,” I said, opening the back of the car and pointing to the storage space.

“Oh, the boot. Sure thing!” he said, hoisting the carton in.

Then there were times when my calling something a flyover or a reference to a hoarding resulted in blank looks all around. Flyovers are called overpass, and a hoarding, as I soon learned, is a billboard!                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                                       – Gautam Mahajan

Posted: Sep 5, 2013

August 2017



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