Lost in German Dialects – When Porto becomes Bordeaux
Last week, we wrote about accent discrimination here on Fair Languages. Now, I found a nice little story from Germany that will serve as the perfect real life example to illustrate how speaking with a strong accent might cause not only bemusement but even make you pay!
The story goes that a lady from Saxony, a region in Eastern Germany, wanted to book a flight to Porto which is, as we all know, in Portugal. The travel agent however being Swabian, so from the South of Germany, understood that she wanted to go to Bordeaux which is, of course, in France.
What you need to know about Germany is that many regions have very distinct German dialects that can differ a great deal from standard German. This is the case for both the Swabian and Saxonian dialects, so it’s maybe not that impossible to imagine that these two had quite some difficulty to understand each other with.
When realizing that she received a flight to Bordeaux instead of Porto our traveler from Saxony then did not want to pay the ticket. Unfortunately for her a court followed the argumentation of the travel agent who claimed to have repeated route and destination twice in high thus standard German. The judge argued that because of this they had a binding contract with the consequence that our unlucky traveler had to pay more than 300 Euros for a flight she will most likely never go on.
But Germans are far from being the only ones getting confused with similar sounding names. It’s fairly common that people go to Rodez in France instead of Rhodes, the Greek island. Or might this be an ingenious strategy by the French to get more tourists into visiting the country? Honi soit qui mal y pense. And it apparently also happens regularly that tourists who want to go to Sydney, Australia end up in Sydney, Nova Scotia/Canada.
Below, I implemented a short clip from a popular comedy show in Germany which is quite self-explanatory even if you don’t understand any German. What can I say: we love our Saxons!
Via Spiegel Online | Picture by Phillip Maiwald, via Wikimedia Commons
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