Saturday, 5 February 2011

Ligaments and anginas.

Just saw the most ridiculous advert on telly. They were explaining how many germs there are all around us at home. 

Oh, no, how terrible! Every time one of us touches the regular soap dispenser pump, we leave tons of germs all over it! So, why not use this hands free soap dispenser?

Whenever I see something like that, I am curious. How many people are actually that stupid? Because, even my 5-year old understood when I explained that there was no point worrying about the pump as the only time you would touch it is seconds before you wash your hands. 

Stupid things just wind me up, and I had to get it out of my system. 

Now, back to the subject.

I realized the other day that my English was nowhere near as good as I thought. Because, I might be able to express a lot of feelings, thoughts and emotions in it, I might communicate perfectly well and be able to read complicated books ( like Harry Potter, which is my bedtime book right now, don't ask me why)...But there is one very basic, very important area where I am still very foreign.

I have been getting an unpleasant sensation in my belly recently, whenever I walk fast or get tired. It feels muscular, and is probably because of the extra weight I am carrying around. So, trying to explain it to people, I actually was not sure what words to use. And I realized that describing pain is possibly one of the most complicated tasks you face when you are speaking in another language.

Is it a pulling sensation? A friend asked. Hmmm I thought pulling? Don’t know. Is it like a stitch? Is it like a cramp? Oh, forget it, I said. I have no idea! 

And really, how does one describe pain? How do we explain what it feels like to be able to translate it into another language?

In Russian we very often use words that make absolutely no sense in English.

Like a headache. A tense, sudden headache is often referred to as a spasm or a spasmodic pain. Yes, it comes up when I look it up online, but I have never had a native speaker understand what I mean, or use the word.

We say angina when we mean an infected sore throat (possibly coming from Vincent’s angina?), and we often complain we don’t feel quite right because we have high blood pressure. The whole blood pressure thing is  one of Husband’s favourite topics of endless heated discussions with my mother. As someone trained to be a doctor in the UK, he gets frustrated trying to prove to her that she can’t feel any symptoms of high blood pressure.Because she knows that she can.

So, it occurred to me, that this is possibly one area where I still don’t feel as comfortable as in my own language.  I can swear, joke, blog and work alongside the locals, I can communicate with my husband and child perfectly well; but when it comes to feeling unwell I am suffering alone. 

'It is the kind of pain you might feel if you run fast to a bus' I told a medical friend of mine, and she seemed to have got it. 

'Yes, it is probably your ligaments' she said. 

Liga-ments. Right. Look it up online.


  1. i do understand you as i experienced the same when i was pregnant. i was having a terrible pain, so i thought that it is a time for the baby to come out.So my husband called the hospital to say that we are coming.Instead, the nurse/receptionist on duty asked my husband to pass the phone over to me, then the torture began.i had to describe the nature of my pain in detail. can you imagine. i was exhausted of a constant pain yet i had to analyse and produce proper english sentences. well, at the end,the voice on the phone said:"it is not a contraction yet, don't come to hospital, give us a call next morning" and hang up.

  2. Round ligament pain, for those og us who havw been pregnant - we know!

  3. I don't know if in English or in Russian you describe some apins as deaf. Yes, deaf. Once, my very unique and beloved uncle Jorge, who was a wonderful physician, told me that he couldn't get why the pain is deaf. 'Either way, pain can't hear', he said laughing.
    About the spasmodic, in Spanish we use it: 'dolor espasmódico'.
    How can you describe an ache? The same way you describe a flavor or a scent: you simply can't.

  4. I've found that, when GPs ask you what sort of pain you're feeling, they first of all distinguish between pain and ache, then they go into 'is it constant', 'intermittent', etc. My suggestion, think of the worst one it can be and tell them that. By the way, the French for sore throat is also 'une angine'.

  5. @Bill: all foreigners who lived here long enough learned that trick! Haha. Unless, you tell them the worst, they will ignore it and wait for you to bleed. when I had a sore stomach and when I went to ask to once and for all find out why, she asked me whether I was bleeding yet, and in "acute" pain. when I said not bleeding yet, she said well no need for tests.

    @Gabriela: Hmm...deaf pain? Is it the same as numb pain?

    @anonymous: Yes, they send you back in the UK until you are about to push that baby out.

  6. Scary,

    I always adore your ability to explain yourself in English but sometime you choke me :) How on the world you didn't know what ligament pain was?

  7. @Anonymous:
    I might not know about ligament pain, but my dear, I do know what a pain in the arse is! :))))

  8. i wonder would native speakers know what ligament pain is.

  9. Scary,
    i am looking forward to see your next article. please.

  10. Shafag Dickinson24 October 2011 at 01:14

    Once I told my English husband "My Mom has a blood pressure (U moey mami davlenie or Anamin tezyiqi var)". And he answered "Everyone does!!".

    Of course, it was a little sarcasm to my literal translation, he actually knew what I meant. We often don't bother using the word "High" with blood pressure, and this is only one of those stupid situations I put myself when I talk to my husband about the deseases.

    But, I find it quite challenging and more so, entertaining for my husband. He will normally say: "OK, you've tried to explain me, now speak English, please" :-))