What are the words in English that have different, awkward meanings in different places or countries?

My answer to What are the words in English that have different, awkward meanings in different places or countries?

Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:

  • If you ever hear some shopkeeper in India tell you, ‘That will be 20 rupees and 50 paise’, he is not asking you to pay 20 bucks in cash and 50 pies.

    Pie is a unit of currency in India 😀 And clearly the Indian pie is very different from the American Pie 😛

  • You need to be extra careful if you tell someone you want that ‘beige’ colored jacket. Whether you pronounce it as ‘beej’ or ‘bay’j’, someone who is not familiar with the name of the color is going to give you surprised looks.In India, beej means ‘seed’, and beyj (which sounds like bhej) means ‘to send’.

    Once I told a shopkeeper that I’m looking for a beige colored nail polish. He didn’t understand and shoved the entire tray of nail polishes for me to choose from. I showed him what I was looking for and he looked at me like I’m stupid.

    “Ohhh…bee-gay”, he said.

    Yeah right! That’s the last thing I wanted to hear.

  • In Kerala, if you tell someone you’re going to ‘the shop’, be prepared to get a standard Indian head bobble like this…

Because in Kerala, ‘shop’ without any prefixes stands for this…

Specifics, people. Specifics!

  • Anywhere else in the world, the word ‘specs’ would be inferred as an abbreviation of the word ‘specifications’. In India, the default meaning is spectacles.
  • Poor Edward Cullen…and everyone with the surname Cullen. The word ‘kaLLan’ actually means ‘thief’ in Malayalam 😛
  • When somebody advises you to catch an auto, he is not making fun of you. He’s just advising you to take the autorickshaw, the most popular mode of public transport in India.
  • Change strictly means ‘loose change’…It’s common for people to ask ‘Do you have change?’
  • A line anywhere else in the world is a line. End of story. A ‘line’ in Kerala is officially your girlfriend/boyfriend. And ‘line maarna’ basically means to hit on someone.Yeah, I know. *facepalm*
  • When someone says there’s a free show somewhere, people infer it as a drama or a movie screening where you don’t have to pay for tickets.In India, ‘free show’ would mean that some woman is showing off excessive skin and/or body parts that are traditionally kept under wraps.
  • What’s a nacho in the USA? This…?

In India, nacho means this…


  • What do you understand by the word ‘bit’? Past tense of bite, a small piece of something, etc.

    In India, ‘bit’ is basically a piece of paper you take stealthily into the exam hall to copy stuff off from.

  • A picture does not only mean a painting or a drawing in India. It can also be used to refer to a full 3-hour long movie.
  • An item is…well…something…anything. An item. Any item. An item of furniture. And item of clothing. That’s it.But in India, an ‘item’ is basically a hot girl.

Better do your homework well before you decide on that India trip 😛

What are the words in English that have different, awkward meanings in different places or countries?

One Comment Add yours

  1. Nice post and a wonderful presentation.


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