How I Know We Didn't Kill Him

“How is your family?” I asked when my husband got off the phone.  

“Good,” he said.  “They just called to check on us and tell me that they killed that Argentine guy.”

Maybe this is all couples, I can’t say, but it took me about five more full minutes of conversation before I said, “Did you just start this conversation by saying that they killed someone?”

As my time with Billy has progressed, I’ve developed a non-detectable filter.  Now,  my husband has impeccable English, but sometimes words come out in a “unique” way.  

My filter lets me hear what I know he meant, not what he actually said.  

For example, the reason I didn’t catch my in-laws apparent murder confession was that I immediately knew that he was saying his parents called to let him know someone in Guatemala murdered this Argentine folk singer.  It made sense.

I also know that “We were talking with Sarah’” means, “Sarah and I were talking.”  And “I heard that the other day” probably means about five years ago, before we even met.

And when Billy got tired of hanging wall art, but I had a few more picture frames... he handed me three nails and a hammer, saying, "Go kill yourself."  This one stumped me for a minute.  Until.... "knock yourself out" came to mind.  

Sometimes knowing a little bit of Spanish helps.  If I feel confused for a moment, I can translate it back to Spanish and realize the English was a direct translation.  Like “she has 5 years” isn’t a prison sentence... it’s a direct translation from Spanish of “she’s 5 years old.” 

The Filter.  Undetectable, but absolutely necessary.

Do you have short cuts for cross-cultural communication?  


  1. Oh Sarah, this is so funny! My husband and I are from the same culture, but I ALWAYS get those sentences wrong. Like 'Go break a leg' might come out of my mouth like 'Go crack a rib.' I never get those right!

  2. Thanks for sharing, Beth. It's always amusing to me when you start dissecting language. "Break a leg" is a bizarre expression, but "go crack a rib" is even better!

  3. Anonymous9:50 PM

    Sarah, Dawn Rightmire just told me about your blog today, so I looked you up. I couldn't stop laughing about "Go kill yourself" vs. "knock yourself out." Gualberto and I have those funny moments all the time. Can't think of any specifically at the moment, but I know exactly what you mean. We keep each other on our toes, so to speak. :) Jenna

  4. Jenna! What fun to connect with you! I hope I can see you (and meet your husband) sometime soon. These cross-cultural marriages certainly do keep us on our toes... that is for sure!


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