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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Anglification [20090122|14:24]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
After clearing immigration at Newark Airport, I headed out to look for the trains. I found an information desk, and after standing in front of it timidly for a couple of minutes, one of the ladies behind the desk exclaimed, "Can I help you?"

"What's the best way to get to New York Penn Station?"

She gave me directions and told me to purchase a ticket ($15) before I boarded the train. I thanked her and started to walk away. Then I remembered something and turned back to her.

"Sorry, one more question, can one purchase a return?"

She stared at me as if a small but perfectly formed baby had sprung out of my forehead. "Ummmm...no, I don't think you can do that."

I apologised, thanked her, apologised again and left.

Help me, I can't speak American any more.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2009-01-22 14:38 (UTC)
Just have a nice cup of tea. You'll soon feel better.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-01-22 14:58 (UTC)
You know what's scary? That's exactly what I did, soon as I got to girl_onthego's.
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[User Picture]From: hils
2009-01-22 14:42 (UTC)
What do Americans call a Return then? *is intrigued*
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[User Picture]From: greyface
2009-01-22 14:50 (UTC)
We like to use concrete nouns for things we buy. In American, return is primarily a verb. Also, for what it's worth, we ask real questions about real people.

"Can I buy return ticket?"
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[User Picture]From: greyface
2009-01-22 14:56 (UTC)
Trust me, forgetting your dialect, for a different dialect is much less scary than wondering if you're forgetting your actual language.

I don't want to take the time to explain the details, but for the last 2 days I've been plagued by the sentence, "I swim in the sea hard every day." It sounds wrong to me. So I've moved all sorts of pieces around, and pretty much, the only thing I can do to make it work for me is to change it to "I swim in the sea very[really] hard every day." Sadly, that extra word would never be added by a Japanese student of English attempting to translate a Japanese sentence unless the Japanese sentence had とても(totemo) but とても一生懸命(totemo isshoukenmei) sounds like a retard (you can think of it as: I swim very for-all-my-life's-worth in the sea every day).

It really bothers me that I can't find a grammatical, structural, or common usage problem with the original sentence, but it still sounds wrong to me. Either it's an uncommon usage that I've forgotten the regular phrasing for, or it's fine, but my English (American, whatever...) has gone fishy from too little exposure. *sigh*
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[User Picture]From: hils
2009-01-22 15:14 (UTC)
I would ditch the word hard and say 'I take a very thorough (or rigorous) swim in the sea every day'
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[User Picture]From: greyface
2009-01-22 16:24 (UTC)
Oh... another thing... in America, the "return ticket" I suggested above... only the 2nd half of a round trip ticket.

Apparently (and this is not a shock) I don't actually know British English!
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[User Picture]From: cataragon
2009-01-22 15:18 (UTC)
Just try not to queue, and you should be fine. :-P

C.
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[User Picture]From: girl_onthego
2009-01-23 00:18 (UTC)
I thought that's what she was doing with the 'stood timidly for a few minutes' part.
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[User Picture]From: giles
2009-01-22 15:39 (UTC)
Aw. Bless.

.WAV please.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-01-24 16:18 (UTC)
Will do when I'm back in the UK!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-01-24 16:23 (UTC)
And culturally confused. Halp!
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[User Picture]From: nimoloth
2009-01-22 17:46 (UTC)
Hmm, I can't actually figure out what's wrong with what you said without looking at the comments to your post! I can't decide if it's the number of times you apologised, that you stood quietly and waited for attention, or the ticket you asked for! It all seems perfectly normal to me.
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[User Picture]From: wiggyfish
2009-01-22 19:19 (UTC)
I think it's just the phrase "can one purchase a return." An American would say something like "can I buy a round-trip ticket" or "can I get a return ticket?" First-person pronoun in the subject, terse verb, concrete object.

I'm a quiet-waiter myself, in part because my mother worked as a postal clerk and detested having people barge up to her window and imperiously shove her work aside with their packages. Being that way works badly in places where there's no accountability (gas stations, crowded tourist spots), but I can't think of a time anyone's looked at me oddly because of it.
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[User Picture]From: foreverdirt
2009-01-22 18:53 (UTC)
Oh, these comments are an education for me!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-01-24 16:21 (UTC)
Me too. I couldn't for the life of me remember what the correct American phrasing was. Yesterday I asked a maitre'd if I needed to have a booked a table at a restaurant. "No, you don't need a reservation," she said, grinning. Argh!
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[User Picture]From: smallfurry
2009-01-22 21:02 (UTC)
your american may have deserted you, but you have the british apologising down pat! :)

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[User Picture]From: senusert
2009-01-23 00:13 (UTC)
You're becoming one of us.....!
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-01-24 16:31 (UTC)
Some British-isms just make more sense, or they're shorter.

THANKS DUDE!
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[User Picture]From: rhc
2009-01-23 10:51 (UTC)
But do they speak American in Newark?
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-01-24 16:33 (UTC)
I assume so. Might I recommend you ask a native speaker?
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[User Picture]From: helpful_mammal
2009-01-23 14:36 (UTC)
Mwahahaha. We have you now. You will be ours forever...
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2009-01-24 16:37 (UTC)
As long as the supply of sausage and mash and tasty ales doesn't run out, I don't have problem with that.
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