My husband and I went to a place called リトルワールド (little world) similar to Disney’s EPCOT where there’s a bunch of areas which resemble different places in the world and the food that’s popular there. In the Africa area they had a dish which was the grilled wing of an ostrich. I turned to my husband, planning to say “hey, should we eat an ostrich wing?!” but my brain had a different idea…
Instead of saying 手羽先（てばさき, grilled wings）my brain decided to mix things up by combining 翼（つばさ, wing）and 先（さき, tip）and came up with the brand new word of 唾（つば, spit）and 先 instead.
「ね、ダチョウの唾先食べようか？面白そう！」I asked him.
My husband began cracking up and responded 「それはちょっと不味そうよ」
I looked at him confused… the picture of the grilled wing looked delicious… what was he talking about?! Then he explained to me my mistake, that つば means spit. If there’s one thing I’m grateful for, it’s that I didn’t just go up to the counter and order grilled ostrich spit… I might have died from embarrassment!!
What are some of the outrageous language mistakes you’ve made?
Well, I once wrote 「おれは鉛筆です」instead of 「これは鉛筆です」・・・
Also, not me, but when I was using Lang 8, I had a habit of writing everything in kanji – even words usually written in katakana. And one of the Japanese people there told me that such words should be written in katakana. “Write this in katakana” – they intended to say. But because they were using my native language, which they were studying themselves, they eneded up writing “Pee this in katakana”
You see, in my native language, the infinitive forms of the verbs “to pee” and “to write” look the same in writing (in speech they sound different though). But they have very different imperative forms, so that person must have looked the wrong verb
A little different, but…
Here’s a mishearing that might have been embarrassing for my youngest daughter (I think about 3 or 4 years old at the time) — but she seemed to enjoy the rest of us cracking up around the dinner table.
The older kids were having a conversation about something that had happened at school earlier in the day involving a mistaken identity. At some point one of them said 「アー！それは木下か」(“Ah! Sore ha Kinoshita ka?”) referring to one of the students named Kinoshita.
Our youngest, who hadn’t appeared to be paying attention to the conversation to that point, suddenly raised her left arm and pointed to her armpit, saying 「これ、脇の下です」(kore waki no shita desu - “this is my armpit”).
The timing was so perfect, and the pun so perfectly unexpected that I almost coughed up a spleen from laughing so hard!