An embarrassing compliment

During the summer of 2000, I worked in NYC for Razorfish; something I’ve told more about in New York stint. One evening, me and another guy were walking from the office when I asked him what he thought of the web developers in the company. He replied with:

You is really good.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t pay any notice to the fact that he used the word “is”. And if I had, I would’ve disregarded it as some cool slang anyway. So, I started thanking him for the compliment, acting (read: faking) humble and surprised and so on. That’s when he explained what he had really said:

Hye is really good…

He had been talking about the Asian guy named Hye all along… That’s what happens when you go fishing for compliments. :-)

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12 Comments

  • Jules says:

    Before I start, I want to assure people that I am not teasing the Pakistani of their pronunciation but, if they have not been raised in an English country (substitute any language for English), their native pronunciations and unfamiliarity of the English language can make a person hear something different than what was spoken (not unlike your example above).

    In a chemistry course at university, we had a lab tutor who was Pakistani. Whenever she wanted to demonstrate something to us, she would ask us to go over to her. What she should of said was I want you to come over here but with her unfamiliarity with English (Canadian) grammar, she said I'll have you come over here. If you throw in her accent, it sounded like I love you, come over here.

    I remember that she was very pretty so I appreciated the compliment and went over to her right away but many of my classmates chuckled each time she said that.

  • jordan says:

    Jules: Did anything ever come of that, then? ;)

  • Jules says:

    Apparently, like Robert, the compliment wasn't directed at me, she said that to anyone.

  • Chris says:

    Anyway Robert, how come you write (and probably speak) English so well? I know Swedish people generally speak English well but you are really fluent, are'nt you. Time to say it all Robert ;-)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Jules,

    Thanks for the anecdote!

    Chris,

    Merci! However, that is hardly true, there is so much I don't know when it comes to the English language; I'm very far from fluent. I think one's English language skills really get put to the test when talking, though, because then one has to find the right expression/word right instantly.

    Anyway, we have to meet in real life and then you can test me! :-)

  • What is truly embarrassing is when you see someone coming towards you with their hand out thinking they're out to shake your hand and it turns out to be the stiff behind you. ;-)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Justin,

    Yeah, that and people waving at you…

    Happens all the time. :-)

  • You get that type of mispronunciation all the time around where I live. Due to the large ethnic minority and the low level of education the local townies seem to exhibit.

    Well, if you want to improve your understanding of spoken native English you can ring me, as long as you pay the phone bill – we can talk web standards or something.

    My broad accent would put your real-time thinking Swedish – English translation to the test. :)

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Robert W,

    Thanks for the offer!

    Maybe I will, one day, although I really have some problems sometimes to understand British English… :-)

    Any chance you might go to a certain conference in Austin in March?

  • You can always ask Tommy […] Olsson how hard I am to understand on the phone but he has had a lot of practice with us foreigners.

    Austin, not unless somebody else pays the costs… I wonder who I'd represent anyway. Though I could be bribed to ask awkward questions if any rich benefactor funded me to get there.

    Anyway, "Good Season's Greetings" Young Man. :)

  • Chris says:

    Hmmmmm….

    "me and another guy was walking"

    Looks like somebody needs to work on their own mastery of the English language ;) I find that somewhat ironic.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Robert W,

    Ah, too bad… :-)

    But thanks, and jolly greetings to you too!

    Chris,

    Ha ha, well spotted. :-)

    I changed it in the post…

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