Dictionary Schmictionary, or The Downside of Being Bilingual

image: licoricelemondrops.com

image: licoricelemondrops.com

Today’s writing prompt: Time to confess: tell us about a time when you used a word whose meaning you didn’t actually know (or were very wrong about, in retrospect).

Okay, this is embarrassing, but it definitely is the biggest boo-boo I’ve ever made in this regard.

I was a late-bloomer, so in college I was still trying things on for size the way most middle-schoolers do. You know how teenagers will hear a new word and then use it as often as they can? Well, that was me.

At one point I heard the word droplul and, thinking it was powerfully emasculating, I used it to refer to each and every male I thought negatively about for any reason. My incredibly boring documentation professor was a droplul, the Frisian guy who lived upstairs from me was a droplul, my ex-boyfriend (blond and blue-eyed) was a droplul. You get the picture–everyone was a droplul.

You see, I unconsciously interpreted drop the English way, as in “to drop something” and lul the Dutch way, meaning “dick” or “cock”. So I thought I had a word that meant someone who couldn’t keep it up. Until I referred to a common acquaintance as a droplul in a conversation with my Antillian boyfriend. He was shocked that I would use such a racial slur.

At first I had no idea what he was talking about, but he kept insisting it was racist, until the coin finally dropped. I had interpreted drop to mean the English “to drop”, while in fact it was meant to be just plain Dutch . . . meaning licorice. So I had been calling every guy I didn’t like licorice dick!

I was mortified and explained to my boyfriend what my thought process had been, but I don’t think he believed me. Nevertheless, it’s the truth.

One response to “Dictionary Schmictionary, or The Downside of Being Bilingual

  1. Learning a new language in a new culture is very hard. And people aren’t very nice about it. You clearly survived, so good for you!


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