Language Flubs + Fluffy Lemon Meringue Pie

Language flubs/mishaps/mistakes/embarrassments/tragedies. They’re bound to happen when living amidst another culture. But we have to keep sticking our necks out there and trying, right? We learn from our mistakes, and usually have a good laugh at them later.

I was in language school a few years ago. You know we made some great, funny mistakes while spending 6-8 hours in Chinese every day! My most memorable moment was during tutor time. I was studying flash cards, or trying to converse with my sweet, patient tutor, while my classmate was studying tones behind me. (Chinese has 5 of them.) I attempted to say, “He really likes tones,” because he was repeating them with his tutor rather loudly. My tutor started giggling immediately. After a quick check with a dictionary, I realized I had changed one little vowel and said, “He really likes to hang himself.” WOOPS!

I asked some friends to share their best stories of language blunders. These are great!!

While eating out one evening, I dropped my chopsticks on the floor. In China, it’s perfectly fine to yell out to the waiter/waitress what you need. I attempted to yell across the room, “I need some new chopsticks!” Instead, it came out, “I need a new wife!”

Our class had invited our Chinese teacher to lunch. Even though she didn’t believe, we still wanted to pray before the meal. Apparently, I was hungry and my stomach took over my words, because instead of saying, “Father, thank you that today is Friday…” I said, “Father, thank you that today is hungry.”

In my first semester of language school, I was overly excited to use what little vocabulary I had learned. Too bad “butt” and “rib” sound a lot alike. I tried to compliment my hostess by saying, “This rib is SO good!” But, alas, one slip of a vowel botched the whole compliment.

When studying new vocabulary I used flashcards with the Chinese characters on one side and the phonetic spelling and translation on the other side. I would often spread the cards out between my tutor and myself and try to identify any I knew already. A couple weeks into studying my tutor and I were doing this exercise and I excitedly pointed to “bathroom” and announced that I knew that one… but then when I pronounced it as I thought it should be said my tutor cracked up at me. Déjà vu from several times my first year when I asked the location of the bathroom and got either snickers or blank, uncomfortable stares. When she stopped laughing, my tutor informed me that the word I was pointing to did mean bathroom, but I was pronouncing the word for feminine hygiene products.

Early on in studying, my tutor was teaching me a grammatical concept where you can repeat a word twice to communicate that it was little or cute (like adding “y” to duck or pig to get the cute “ducky” or “piggy”). I always liked to try out new things I was learning, so I grabbed a rubber chicken that was sitting nearby{don’t we all have those sitting nearby?! HA!} and tried it out. But it turns out that the word for chicken and a man’s reproductive organ are the same (context is HUGE in Chinese), so when I took it out of context, instead of getting little chicken, I got the cutesy word for a little boy’s part. Eek!

I went to a local pharmacy to pick up some meds. After attempting to describe what I wanted, I heard the worker say “Shí fēnzhōng”/”10 minutes.” So, I walked out, lingered around, bought some fruit, and returned in 10 minutes. When I asked for my meds, she said it again! “10 minutes.” I thought, c’mon lady, I just gave you 10 minutes! Then I listened a little closer and heard “Shēnfèn zhèng”/”ID card.” I wonder what she thought when I left for those 10 minutes?!

While in Mexico, I lived with a great host family. It was raining really hard one day, so I tried to ask them where I could buy an umbrella. They kept giving me puzzled looks and asking me why. Well, it’s raining! I finally figured out I was mistakenly asking where to buy a windshield.

What language mishaps do you have to share? We’d love to laugh with you now that it’s all over!


I love pie. Like, LOVE it. thanks. I ask for pie every year on my birthday. (Although, I wouldn’t mind trying this piecakin!) I’ll take any pie, but I especially love cream pies. Pudding-like filling with a pile of meringue on top. Oh yes!

If you’ve never made a pie, don’t be scared off! It’s really not that hard! Maybe you’re scared off by making crust. No worries…if it turns out that bad, just scrape the lemon curd and meringue off and eat it as is! 😉


Not sure if it’s easy for you to get better or not, but I highly recommend an all-butter crust. So flaky. So good!


Use a pastry cutter (above), a fork, or your hands to make nice, little crumbles.


Ready to chill.


It’s pretty hard when it comes out of the fridge, so use quick rolls back and forth to soften it up.


No need for a perfectly round crust!


It can be a little tricky to get the crust off the counter and into the pie plate. I like to roll it onto the rolling pin and flop it in.


It’s rarely a perfect fit, but have no fear! You can cut and paste. 🙂


See all those chunks of butter? That’s how it turns into flaky goodness!


There are many ways to crimp a crust and make it pretty. This one is super easy. I was a one-man show, so imagine that these 2 pictures are together.




Lemon curd is a beautiful thing. I could eat it every day!


Malachi agrees!


This is what “stiff peaks” looks like. It takes a good 3-5 minutes of mixing on high speed.


I could stop right here and just grab a spoon and dig in. But adding the meringue adds another layer of yummy fluff!


A few minutes in the oven makes it even prettier.



Lemon Meringue Pie

For the Crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed

1/4 cup cold water

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you can form it into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

Lightly dust the counter, then roll the dough out large enough to fit a 9-inch pie pate. Transfer dough to the pie plate and press down firmly on the bottom and all around the sides. Trim off whatever dough hangs over the sides. If you have some parts that don’t quite make it to the top, add a piece of dough and pinch together. Create a trim as pictured above if desired.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Prick the bottom several times with a fork. Line the crust with parchment paper and fill with dried beans. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crust turns golden brown on the edges. Set aside.

For the Lemon Curd:

1 cup white sugar

2 Tbsp flour

3 Tbsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups water

2 lemons, zested and juiced

2 Tbsp butter

4 egg yolks, beaten (save the whites for the meringue!)

In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until it reaches a thick pudding texture. Remove from heat. Pour filling into baked pie shell.

For the Meringue:

4 egg whites

6 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). In a large bowl (glass or metal is ideal, but I only have plastic and it’s just fine), whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form, 3-5 minutes. Spread meringue over pie, sealing the edges at the crust. Bake 10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown. Cool completely, then chill until serving.




  1. Erica February 23, 2016

    Yay! This makes me so happy, especially because I can picture most of the faces who made these mistakes. 😉

    1. Ashley Felder February 25, 2016

      It was fun to go down memory lane! Welcome back to this side!!

  2. Lydia G February 24, 2016

    SOOOOO fun reading these well-recounted stories from CLP, Ashley!!! Got more good laughs here…

    1. Ashley Felder February 25, 2016

      Thanks for helping out! I’m glad these are written down now, so we can continue laughing later!

  3. Leona February 24, 2016

    That was a fun read!  Lots of good memories… 🙂

    1. Ashley Felder February 25, 2016

      Indeed! I’m sure you have more to add, right?! 😉

  4. Nancy Chambers February 24, 2016

    So many funny language flubs for me here in Madagascar.  I have two pretty strange ones.  The first, I thought I was asking for the women’s restroom, but I mispronounced women, so what I was really asking for was the “water closet for the tongue”.  Yeah, I got that look.

    The other one was during language study.  Going through the flash cards, my tutor said church.  I responded : “fionganana”.  She gave me a funny look, said no.  It’s “fiangonana”.  I asked her what I said, and she said NOT church.  When she finally quit laughing, she told me the word I used means “to stick ones buttocks out”.

    1. Ashley Felder February 25, 2016

      Haha, those are great!! Such a slight change in the words for church and…NOT church. 😀

  5. Laura r February 25, 2016

    I was living in Japan when I was expecting my first son and I couldn’t figure out why no-one seemed happy about my news until I learned I was telling everyone that I was a carrot!

    My husband made meringue with a fork our first year in SE Asia. It took him such a long time but it tasted so good. Don’t use a plastic bowl if you have to go this route 🙂

    1. Ashley Felder February 25, 2016

      HAHA! That’s a good one! Well, at some point, they’re the size of a carrot, right?! 😉

      That’s some serious dedication to make meringue! I couldn’t have done it!

  6. Monica F February 25, 2016

    Great, fun post to read… can totally identify with Chinese language flubs.  A few years ago I was hosting a medical team, and was making introductions between the US team and the local hospital administrators.  When I introduced one of the doctors from our team who worked in the Public Health Department, I accidently said, “He works in the ‘weishengjian’ (bathroom)” instead of ‘weishengju’ (Health Department).  Everyone busted up laughing.  Face red.  It’s never died…  whenever I see any of those hospital officials they laugh and remind me of that day!

  7. Anna February 27, 2016

    My best one was less about specific words and more about context.  I was trying to cheer up our friend who was going to the market, and *jokingly* suggested that I give her a ride in my bike cart.  She accepted the offer.  So I went with a 200 pound woman in the cart, praying that I could get the bike started on the grass and get up the hill, and getting lots of laughs and comments from everyone on that 1 1/2 mile trip.  But at least she was cheered up by the time she got there.  I’m sure people thought I was crazy!  I’ve still never lived that one down. 🙂

    The funniest one I can think of with a specific word happened with some friends who visited short term.  They struck up a friendship with a merchant who spoke quite a bit of English.  It was Congo- HOT- and no refrigeration for most of us.  What this visitor wanted more than anything was a cold drink, preferably a coke.   They were hard to come by.  His friend the merchant told him he would have one for him the next afternoon.  Imagine his surprise, when he went to claim his ice cold coke, and got a rooster (coq) instead.  They were around the same price- $3.

  8. Ashley Felder February 27, 2016

    So awesome! Anyone get a pic of “woman in cart”? I’m having fun imagining it!! Poor visitor. I bet he learned that word quickly!

    1. Anna February 27, 2016

      I wish I had a picture of it, but no one had a camera handy. 🙂

  9. Lillian Nicolson February 8, 2021

    When I was language learning one of the elderly ladies in my courtyard decided she wanted to learn some English words. She asked me to teach her the word for ‘peanuts’. Unfortunately I told her the plural form and she couldn’t pronounce the ‘t’. I heard her repeating this word many times in the following days – I should have stuck with the singular form.

    I was writing reading exercises for literacy students. They were supposed to be lists of simple syllables without meaning to practice sounding out the letter combinations (ex. like ma, ta, sa etc.) but in a highly tonal, monosyllabic language syllables without meaning are hard to find. In the list of three columns of consonant, vowel combinations I managed to inadvertently insert three different words relating to male and female reproductive organs. .The teacher in charge said he completely lost control of the class during this reading exercise and helped me rewrite the lesson afterwards.

    1. Ashley Felder February 10, 2021

      These are so good! Fun to remember and laugh later. 😀

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