Grab the Bull by the Balls!

Language Fails. Or Wins?
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The clear privilege of being a Mash-Up American is access to several languages, and therefore, several cultures. But when Spanish and Mandarin live beside English and Hebrew in your mind, strange things can come out of your mouth. Mash-up language is a gold mine of culture and comedy. Co-founder Rebecca shares why some phrases will always elude her, and why that’s okay.

I avoid using common idioms because I often mess them up. As an adult, English is my primary language, but I grew up in Southern California and surrounded by family in a swirl of Spanish and English with Hebrew, Portuguese, German and Yiddish sprinkled in. Hablamos todos! Y occasionally messed them all up (as I’ve noted before).

Example: certain expressions have always eluded me. Like, yes! I’m going to grab the bull by the balls! Oh wait. I mean, “Take the bull by the horns”, a phrase that I have never once correctly uttered and only know now because I googled it. I will forget the correct phrasing as soon as I am done writing this.

A friend of ours, who wishes to remain anonymous, is a first-generation Armenian-Syrian-Jewish-American. She sympathizes. Recently in a job interview, she says, she said something along the lines of “The company shouldn’t chew off… I mean, bite a lot… ” After mumbling various false starts, she declared: “I can’t remember!  My parents are immigrants!”

She’s still trying to remember whether “lucked out” is a good or a bad thing. Come to think of it, we don’t really know that one either.

Amy, who grew up in a Korean-speaking household and today makes her living as an (English) writer, still fights the urge to use “whole those things” as a synonym for “everything.”

Pero it kind of makes sense, right? What do you always get wrong?

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Posted by Rebecca Lehrer
Rebecca is co-founder and chief executive of The Mash-Up Americans. A Salvadoran-Jewish-American married to an American-American, she has worked for 10+ years in media, arts and culture. She creates cultural experiences, brings people together, and introduces newbies to Armenian string cheese. You can follow her @beccale and find her in Los Angeles.

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