Huffpost Travel

MILFs Or 'MmmKays': American Slang Gets Lost In Translation

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MILF
These are MILFs. Do not call them hot. | Getty Images

And you thought this was going to be about Heidi Klum.

Shame.

Slang may mean one thing here in the United States of America, but could land travelers in heaps of trouble in other countries if used improperly or in the wrong context.

Take the acronym for Moro Islamic Liberation Front, MILF, as a prime example of the potential catastrophic hilarity to be had by an unknowing American tourist traveling the Philippines.

English is a widely spoken language in the Philippines and one stray comment by a fanny packing tourist like, "Hey! That's one hot MILF!" could result in an uncomfortable blindfolded back-of-a-truck ride.

Remember, American MILFs are very different from Filipino MILFs.

Then there's China. Mandarin as a language contains four major spoken tones, with each tone changing the meaning of the word.

If that isn't difficult enough for English speakers, throw in the occasional word sounding like English slang.

During my first few months in Shanghai a couple of words stood out among the rest. The Mandarin word for "right" sounds like "yo!" So if you're in a taxi and you want to turn right you'd say "Yo guai" which can sound remarkably like "yo guy!"

That's how I nearly ended up in the Shanghai countryside during my third cab ride.

I answered my cell with a "Yo guy!", the cabbie heard me, took a right at the next street which happened to be a major highway on-ramp.

There is also another Mandarin word sounding just like a certain unsavory term used in Huck Fin before the censors got happy with their red pens.

Such a word can be shocking to hear when a Chinese woman is screaming it at a vendor and pointing at a handbag.

Why is she calling that handbag such a nasty word?

What did that handbag ever do to her?

She doesn't have to get so angry at it.

I soon learned that certain word actually means "that one", as in "give me that one over there."

There's also English slang that translates surprisingly well and can be quite useful when in another country. For those that have seen Southpark (all of you), you're aware of Mr. Mackey's uttered affirmation "Mmkay!"


"MmGai Mmkay!"

In Hong Kong the most commonly used Cantonese word for an expat or traveler sounds like "Mm Gai" and means "please", "thank you", and "excuse me".

Just don't break out Mr. Hanky on the Hong Kong subway.

When you travel be aware of what you're saying and who you're saying it to. Sometimes we all speak the same language whether we know it or not.

Has slang ever gotten you in trouble in another country? Shout out below.