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I do not think it means what you think it means
Last week I shared a few of my favorite cultural run-ins involving language. However, I don't want to leave you all with the impression that Ugandans are the only ones who get tripped up while doing their best to communicate in a different language than the one they're accustomed to. Those of us from the other side of the pond sometimes have the same problem. You see, we tend to think that if we're speaking English and they're speaking English, then we're all on the same page, right?
We might not even be reading the same book. Almost any Englishman will happily tell you that Americans do not speak English. After living here for a year, I sometimes think they're right.
Case in point: A few weeks ago I was having an earnest conversation with Benard, one of the guards at the school compound. "Benard," I said, "I really wish you would take courses at MTI."
Big smile from Benard. "Maybe someday, Mama."
"No, really, Benard. I want you to go. You are so smart."
"Yes, Benard. You are very smart, and you should go to school."
Extremely puzzled look.
"Don't you believe you are smart? I do. I hope you will decide to go to school."
Downright confused look.
(Perhaps he's not as smart as I think he is?)
At this point, a friend standing nearby quietly said, "Mary Beth, I hope you realize you're saying he should go to school because he's a snappy dresser." Benard smiled and nodded, and everyone laughed while I turned a couple different shades of red and wished that one of the "hot dogs" (see previous post) would come drag me away. Score: British English 1; American English 0.