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How’s it going, travelers?

February 21st is Mother Language Day, and we have a variety of mother languages here at the office. Here’s a sampling of some useful phrases in the mother tongues of our team:


Stacy, Vivian, Julie, and Diana are from Greece:

Mother phrase: Éla
Literal Translation: Come now
Actual Meaning: This word can be a greeting, an exclamation of disbelief or exasperation, or to ask someone to clarify what they’ve just said.

Jeff is from Texas:

Mother phrase: I’m fixin’ to go
Literal Translation: I’m about to go
Actual Meaning: In the deep south, “fixin'” refers to preparing. If you’re fixin’ to do something, you’re gearing up for the act!

Elaine’s family speaks Cantonese at home:

Mother phrase: 鬼拍後尾枕 [gwái paak hauh méih jám]
Literal Translation: A ghost slapped the back of my head!
Actual Meaning: Woops, I didn’t mean to say that. I’ve accidentally revealed a secret.

Diane is a native to NYC:

Mother phrase: I’m on line at the bodega.
Literal Translation: I’m standing in the line at the corner market.
Actual Meaning: New Yorkers always refer to their spot in a queue as being “on” line rather than “in” line. Bodegas are small grocery stores, usually owned by immigrants, located conveniently in neighborhood blocks. They are famous for serving excellent deli sandwiches, particularly egg & cheese on a roll.

Kathy’s family speaks Ecuadorian Spanish at home:

Mother phrase: ¡pilas!
Literal Translation: Batteries!
Actual Meaning: Look sharp, be ready, stay alert!

Shannon is from Florida:

Mother phrase: Use your blinker, there’s a spot in Goofy!
Literal Translation: Use your turn signal, a space has opened up in that part of the Disney World parking garage.
Actual Meaning:  We’re at the theme parks again, because we have to make the most of this yearly pass, but if you don’t act quick, we’ll never find a place to park.

Taisha’s family speaks Haitian Creole:

Mother phrase: W ap voye flè
Literal Translation: You’re throwing flowers.
Actual Meaning: You’re talking a bunch of nonsense.

Kate is from Pennsylvania:

Mother phrase: That’s my hoagie, ya jagoff!
Literal Translation: That’s my sandwich, you scoundrel!
Actual Meaning: You’ve stolen my food. You are a monster.

Katya is from Bulgaria:

Mother phrase: Още Петко нероден, а шапката му шият
Literal Translation: Petko (a common boy’s name) isn’t born yet but they’re making him a hat
Actual Meaning:  Slow down! You’re getting ahead of yourself.

Donna is from Maryland:

Mother phrase: That’s a sook, not a jimmy, you baltimoron
Literal Translation: That’s a female crab, not a male crab, you foolish urbanite!
Actual Meaning: People in Maryland are pretty serious about crabs.

Carolyn is from Connecticut, but her true home is The Sea :

Mother phrase: Let’s take the next round of the tender and scuttlebutt.
Literal Translation: Let’s take the next session of ferry duty so we can gossip.
Actual Meaning: The tender is the small transport boat attached to a larger vessel, which taxis passengers to and from land. Scuttlebutt is perhaps the original term for “water cooler” gossip, originated by sailors in the 17th century. 

Lori is from South Carolina:

Mother phrase: Toss some hushpuppies in the buggy, we’ll have ’em for supper.
Literal Translation: Put some cornmeal cakes in your shopping cart, we’ll have them as an early dinner.
Actual Meaning: Hushpuppies are deep fried cornmeal cakes, a popular dish for any meal, but particularly suitable for “supper,” which comes between lunch and dinner.

Be sure to speak some of your mother tongue today!