Coming to the US, I knew there would be a cultural shift and I won’t lie some of the things I knew I would need to adjust to would be food and accents (in that order), and I have. I did not however expect to learn so many (often funny) phrases that mean so many different things!
Jinx! You owe me a coke is one of those phrases. I was at a lunch table with my colleagues and I happened to simultaneously say the same thing as one of them. I shared with the table that back home in Kenya, every time this happened it triggered a game called pinchez where one of the two people involved gets to pinch the other, request a color and keep pinching until the person in pain points out said color. I learned at the table that the American equivalent is you call out Jinx, then the other person owes you a Coke. I find this interesting on three levels, one that there are certain games that transcend cultures and distance, secondly, how strange that pain and debt are acceptable lessons for young kids and thirdly, how even at my ripe age of 26 I am still tempted to pinch someone when pinchez is triggered!
At the Buffett Institute for Global Studies where I serve, we have regular meetings and this a perfect ground for more phrases during brainstorming sessions! One of the ones that have stuck with me is noodling through something. I initially thought this phrase had something to do with food, maybe soup? Then I learnt that it actually means to think through something. I guess the semi-equivalent of it in Kenya would be food for thought or chew on this which I heard a lot in high school (clearly we loved food).
Another common phrase in our meetings is getting too far into the weeds (often accompanied by a hand gesture resembling open handed dough kneading). This one I really would not have guessed the meaning… but it actually means to get into too much detail. I still haven’t found a perfect opportunity to use these phrases so far but I really want to, and not just for the hand gesture although this is a big part of it.
The one American thing I have internalized and now constantly use is y’all. I use it in emails, in daily conversations with colleagues and friends and family, I even have somewhat of a southern drawl as I say it! Anyway, I hope that as I continue to learn, I also leave some of my own phrases behind. Thanks for reading this y’all, have a great Spring ahead!