Being blind, I often request assistance when crossing busy roads. A couple of days ago I stood at a busy crossing in London’s Victoria Street. When a gentleman approached I asked “can you give me a hand please?” When he answered in the affirmative I thanked him and took hold of his arm just above the elbow.
“That’s my elbow”, he said offering me his hand. I explained that it was, in fact his arm I required and we crossed the road together.
During our short transit across the road and into Victoria station, my companion mentioned that he was from Norway. His command of English was excellent. However the misunderstanding which arose when I requested “a hand” made me realise how those brought up in a country/familiar with it’s culture use expressions, on a regular basis without considering whether they will be understood by the person with whom they are communicating.
As many of you will be aware, “To give a hand” has 2 meanings:
1. To provide assistance and
2. To applaud/clap a person/group of people.
There are doubtless many other expressions which I use on a daily basis without giving any thought as to whether my meaning will be correctly interpreted. In future I shall try to remember to ask “can you help me cross the road please?” which is a wholly unambiguous request.
I would be interested to here from my readers (both here in the UK and abroad) regarding their experiences of using commonly employed expressions and being misunderstood.