Miscommunication Between Cultures, Part 2

Hopefully Yves doesn’t kill me for posting this story.  Sorry, Yves!

When I was studying at Northern Illinois University, we used to make supply runs to the local Jewel grocery store.  Of course, this necessitated us having a car, so when someone with a car presented themselves, to Jewel we could a-go.

One day, my friend Yves (originally from Switzerland) and I were wandering through Jewel, dodging the local old ladies who seemed to always be there, haphazardly pushing their shopping carts around with three items in them.  It was kinda like running into the middle of a bumper car ring, hoping you wouldn’t get hit… more than 20 times.

Suddenly, Yves remembered something and started to walk faster.  I tried to keep up.  “What’s the matter?” I called out after him.

“I remember something I need…”  Dodging old ladies, he dashed down one aisle, only to emerge as I got there.


He frantically went to the next aisle and looked down it.  “Stuff… You know.  Stuff.  To douche with.”

I kinda cocked my head and said, “Um, I don’t think that’s the word you’re looking for.”

“Yes, it’s right.  Stuff to douche with!” He was getting more agitated as he looked for the aisle.

“I think, just maybe, you’re talking about soap…?”

Bars of Soap

“Yeah.  Soap to douche with!”  That time was a bit too loud, because a little old lady and her cart collided with an end-cap.

“Ah, here it is!” His voice sound relieved, although he had a look of concern as he looked over at the group of little old ladies and a shop assistant trying to clean up the spilled contents of the end cap.

Yves was going through the soap to see which brand he wanted, cheerfully inserting the word “douche” into every sentence he could when another old lady passed him and gave him a scolding look.

Our following conversation went a bit like this:

“Uh, I think we need to stop using that word.”

“Which word?”

“Douche,” I hissed under my breath.

“Why?  It means, you know, to clean your body.”  Using a voice everyone within 3 feet can hear…

“Not in American English it doesn’t!”

Yves looked puzzled, like Data trying to comprehend something not programmed into his experience on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He found the brand he was looking for and placed it in the cart or basket (I can’t remember which).  “Oh.  So what does douche mean in English?”  Still in the normal voice.

Quiet conspiracy voice: “It’s a female thing.”

Normal voice: “What kind of female thing?”

“I’ll tell you in the car on the way home.  I’m not discussing this in Jewel!”