A couple of hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn’t seem to be breathing; his eyes are rolled back in his head. Terrified, his friend whips out his cell phone and calls 9-1-1.
“My friend is dead! What can I do? What can I do?!” he cries over the phone.
In a calm, soothing voice, the operator says, “Sir, just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead.”
There is a moment of silence, and then a single shot rings out—BLAM!
The hunter’s voice comes back on the line: “Okay, now what?”
Misunderstandings can be a tremendous source of comedy. If you’ve ever seen the old comedy team Abbott and Costello perform their classic routine “Who’s On First,” you know how comedy can derive from a very simple misunderstanding. Think of your favorite TV situation comedy, from I Love Lucy to Seinfeld to Big Bang Theory, and I’ll bet some of your favorite episodes are constructed around a simple misunderstanding between characters. But that’s TV comedy. In real life, it doesn’t feel good to be misunderstood.
It doesn’t feel good to be misunderstood
Professional translator Nataly Kelly tells the following story about what journalists have called the “$70 million word.” In 1980, 18-year-old Willie Ramirez was admitted to a Florida hospital in a comatose state. His friends and family tried to describe his condition to the paramedics and doctors who treated him, but Willie’s family only spoke Spanish. They told the hospital staff that Willie was “intoxicado.” The word is what translators call a "false friend"—it doesn’t mean what ...
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