A Simple Misunderstanding

I have a dear friend at work who has the most delightfully quirky elderly relatives.  They are, by and large, aunts and uncles in their 80’s and 90’s, all who speak in thick, German-Hungarian accents with very local idioms.  My friend, I will call her Donna, can relate their conversations with great accuracy, even down to the accent. She recently had two priceless conversations.

The first was with an uncle who told her “Sweetie, I have to tell you, I’m not doing so good”.  He apparently had some sort of “spell” and totaled his car after running into three others after going into reverse when he meant to go forward.  He didn’t go to the doctor since he had just been there two weeks before.  He then told Donna “Don’t be surprised if you get a call one of these days to tell you that I woke up dead”.  ” Waking up dead” happens a lot out here.  It is a one of my favorite phrases.

The other conversation was equally serious. Donna sent out a short, humorous Christmas letter this year letting people know that her oldest son and his wife had another child. Donna put photos of the two grandchildren on the page, and ended her letter with “I never thought I would be sleeping with a grandpa!” referring, of course to her husband.

Donna got a phone call from a very elderly aunt and uncle, both in their 90’s, after she sent out the letter.

Her aunt told her “We got that Christmas letter, then. That was pretty dirty. You shouldn’t talk like that. We prayed for you.”

Donna realized that her aunt and uncle missed entirely the news that she and her husband were grandparents, and thought she was bragging about sexual exploits. She patiently told them about the new grandchildren and that she was referring to her husband in the last sentence.  She told them, “You know,  I’m not one of them runaround girls “,  another lovely local phrase.  Her uncle then said:

“That is pretty funny!  Oh!! You!!” accompanied by a quick, sharp, wave of the hand to emphasize the silliness and loving exasperation he felt.   As Donna always says, you can’t make this stuff up.

When have you been misunderstood?




18 thoughts on “A Simple Misunderstanding”

  1. my tongue in cheek tendencies leave me open to misinterpretation all the time
    my wife will be sleeping with a grandpa in a few months. i got to feel butterfly kicks in my daughters belly when i picked her up at the airport yesterday.woo hoo
    i will try to think of individual events but am reminded of the opening dedication of pulling your own strings by wayne dyer
    it was dedicated to all the scurvy elephants out there
    he was at school and came home in first or second grade and told his mom he heard his teacher say that he was a scurvy elephant
    his mom went in to find out what that was all about and after meeting with the teacher discovered the teacher had said he was a disturbing element in his class because he had a hard time sitting still and was always asking questions of those around him
    so he dedicated his book to all the scurvey elephants out there
    i was one of those so i could relate

    Liked by 3 people

  2. my dad grew up in fargo in the 30’s when the city was gull if norweigens and swedes with thick accents
    after years learning to say yellie now they change it to yam he vould say in his singsong norske voice
    i sure enjoyed hans at sherrilee’s gathering the other night he had some great observations on life in america and how it differs from euro ways of doing it
    we were talking about how many languages europeans speak as a part of growing up next to countries where similar languages are on either side of you
    not misunderstood but maybe understood through a filter…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. i think he claimed 5
        norwegian i lilt
        swede another
        danish no lilt at all
        english and i don’t think he was particular about the fifth

        i was talking about my friend from budapest and how she understand italian and other baltic languages because of similar words even if she cannot claim to be fluent in the language


        1. You should hear his German. His middle brother lives in Frankfurt and has lived in Germany since he was twenty years old. Over the years he has been married to three German women, and listening to Hans trying to converse with them on the phone is priceless.

          Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s Jorge Jorgensen. We have it on the Dr. Demento’s Christmas CD. I was shocked in the liner notes that that is just a stage name and he isn’t even Scandahoovian!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ach mein Gotta, this pist us bringing tears to my eyes.

    All my old Dutchie (actually Deutsch, but never mind) relatives are gone now, but when I think of my childhood Christmases, those are the voices I hear. (I will say, my dad channels them when he gets really tired).

    We haven’t gathered with cousins in years, do it’s hard to pass memories of these folks on to the s&h. I need to find a way.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. My son has a college buddy with whom he speaks German, as the friend was a German major in college and son took German classes with him. They use terms of endearment with each other like leiber susser kaiserschmarren and schone kasekuchen, both references to pastry (dear sweet kaiserschmarren and beautful cheescake)


  5. Most of the time when I’m misunderstood, it’s not because of a language barrier. Rather, it’s because the listener has jumped to a conclusion about what I’m trying to say.

    I think we’ve touched on this subject before on the trail, but idioms and local or regional vernacular are a frequent source of amusement. When I first met Hans, he announced one day that someone he had just met had invited us over for dinner. I asked him how that had been expressed, and he replied that she had said “you and Margaret should come over for dinner sometime.” I told him that’s “Minnesota Nice” speak, and isn’t a dinner invitation.

    Another source of misunderstanding is poor hearing. This happens in our house with increasing frequency. One or the other of us will reply to a question or something the other has said only to be met with a puzzled look. What??? Usually it’s because we’ve misheard what was said. When that happens, we’ll say “Tuesday,” and we both crack up. It’s our code word for “you didn’t hear me right,” and it’s a reference to an inside joke.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Unfortunately all I can think of at the moment is the falling out I had with Former Neighbor. If memory serves, I ended the conversation with “Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” Some of you will be able to hear that song lyric in your head…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hello Kids–

    you’ve probably seen the FB post going around that says something to the effect of “70% of being married is yelling ‘What?’ from the other room”.

    Today my sister and I were texting. She said she was thinking about inviting mom to her house and just putting a roast in the crock pot; just keeping it simple. I texted back I’d check with Kelly and see what our plans were but I figured we could make it. Soon as I hit “send” I realized, she didn’t actually invite us…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was chatting with a new neighbor a couple of weeks ago. He was out walking their dog, and that led to a conversation about dogs. I mentioned the previous owner of their house had had Lily and J.J., but then Lily died. I later found out from another neighbor he had thought I was telling him that the house’s owner had died. Apparently I had not conveyed the part about Lily and J. J. being the dogs – I just assumed that since we were talking about dogs, he’d know.

    It’s entirely possible those kinds of misunderstandings happen all the time, but you probably never even find out about most of them.

    Liked by 3 people

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