Category: Language & Words


Man, You Bring Me Down

| KS, USA | Coworkers, Language & Words

(This conversation takes place over our headsets. I am answering phones, my coworker is at the cash register, and the manager is somewhere on the sales floor.)

Coworker: “I’ve got a customer up here who says there’s a man down.”

Manager: “[Coworker], where are you? Does someone need help?”

Coworker: “No, I don’t think anyone needs help. There’s just a man down, in the men’s department.”

Me: “[Coworker], is this a real person, or a mannequin?”

Coworker: “What’s a mannequin? There’s a man down in men’s.”

Me: “Are we talking about the men we display clothes on?”

Coworker: “Yes! There’s a man down in men’s!”

Manager: “So, this isn’t an emergency?”

Coworker: “No. There’s just a man down.”


How To Order Disorder

| England, UK | Language & Words

(After a rough night and only a few hours sleep I decide to pick up a snack from a fast food chain at lunch, and order a box of fries and chicken bits. I then discover they’ve implemented this new system where you are handed a number, when it’s called you show your receipt and get your food. For this relatively small restaurant this is surprising as it’s only really efficient in big busy chains. I am handed my number and step to the side. A few moments later a box is dropped in from the kitchen, which I assume is mine, but before I can move a second server picks it up and sets it in front of someone who has just walked into the restaurant and up to the counter, offering him condiments and putting in a sachet of barbecue sauce.)

Server #1: *calling over* “That’s not his!”

(Again I assume it is mine, as it’s not busy and it’s a simple order, so I go to step forward until.)

Server #2: “Taih-un taitair? Taihun taitair?”

(I stand there bewildered for a few seconds as she repeats the phrase, until I realise she’s calling the number on my receipt ‘3133’ – finally I walk up and receive my order.)

Server #2: *in perfect English* “Sorry, he stepped forward so I assumed it was his.”

(I walked out a bit dazed by the experience.)


You Have It All In Español

| USA | Coworkers, Language & Words

(I used to work as a front desk clerk in a hotel before switching to housekeeping. My coworkers hate their jobs, but I prefer it rather than dealing with crazy, demanding customers. I’m also bilingual, and this conversation is in Spanish.)

Coworker: “Why would you want to work as a housekeeper? You know English very well! This country discriminates against us Spanish speakers. If you don’t know English here, you can forget about getting a good job.”

Me: “Because I like this job.”

Coworker: “But why? If I knew English well, I’d be out of here so fast…”

Me: “Doing what?”

Coworker: “Huh?”

Me: “What kind of job would you do once you know English?”

Coworker: “I don’t know… A bank teller, I guess…”

(I tried to tell her how crazy the customers are, but she ignored me and demanded I teach her English! If she only knew…the grass as always greener on the other side, I suppose.)


Those Things Do Work Automatically

| Finland | Language & Words, Technology

(I’m a technical writer. The product that we’re writing manuals for includes an automatic tester system.)

Coworker: “[My Name], I think you made a typo. This says ‘automatic testes.’”

Me: “Apparently our product has balls now.”


They Won’t Let You Finnish A Sentence

| FL, USA | Employees, Family & Kids, Health & Body, Ignoring & Inattentive, Language & Words

(We are a Finnish family on a holiday in Florida. In the middle of the night my mom comes out of her bedroom saying that she can not breathe. We call 911 and explain the situation. The ambulance arrives after a while. Note: my mother does not speak any English.)

Paramedic: “So where’s the patient?”

Me: “Over there, but she doesn’t…”

Paramedic: “We’ll take over from here!”

Me: “Sure, but she doesn’t speak…”

Paramedic: “Please, sir, we’ve got this.”

Me: “Sure, but she won’t understand…”

(The paramedics completely ignore us from this moment on. We try to tell them that they can not communicate with my mother, because they simply have no common language, but nobody seems to listen.)

Paramedic: “Please, ma’am, we’re here to help you. What is the problem?”

Mom: *speaking in Finnish*

Me: “She’s saying—“

Paramedic: “Please, sir, step back. We’ve got this.”

Me: “But…”

Paramedic: “Back off, sir. We are professionals. Ma’am what’s the problem you’re having?”

Mom: *speaking Finnish to us, saying that she doesn’t understand*

Me: *getting frustrated* “Do you not understand that she does not speak English? She only speaks Finnish! Let me translate!”

Paramedic: “We can’t do anything if the patient is not cooperating with us.” *speaking in his walkie-talkie* “The patient is being uncooperative.”

Me: *getting super-frustrated* “What the f*** are you talking about? I have just explained to you that she does not speak any English, and have offered to interpret for you but you refused! She only speaks Finnish! That is the language of Finland!”

(My family members are having this same discussion with several paramedics trying to explain that she needs one of us to translate. Nobody seems to take us seriously and one paramedic is actually laughing at the situation before my brother confronts him. Finally one of them realizes that they are not getting anywhere, calls a number on his cell phone, and hands the phone to my mom.)

Mom: *in Finnish* “Hello?”

Voice On The Phone: *speaking Spanish*

Mom: *in Finnish* “I don’t understand anything. There’s someone speaking in another language I don’t understand.”

Paramedic: “The patient is still unwilling to cooperate.”

Me: *completely losing my temper* “What the f***? Did I not tell you that she only speaks Finnish? She can not breathe! She’s f***ing dying right in front of us! You will take her to a f***ing hospital right now!”

(Eventually they took us to a hospital and I was allowed to go along to translate. The doctors and nurses at the hospital were much nicer and my mother got the care that she needed and was eventually released.)