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  • Vela Georgiev

What The F@#K Did You Say?!

A short essay about life skills learned the hard way

I never thought asking "what?" would land me in trouble.

When I first arrived in Australia, I didn't speak much English.

Whenever I didn't understand what people were telling me in those first few weeks, I would say, "what?". That was the extent of my English vocabulary.

A heated exchange.

My second-grade teacher didn't have much patience for a child who kept saying, "what?".

On the third day of my being in her class, when I responded to her directions to do something with "what?", my teacher looked at me sternly and said, "I beg your pardon". Of course, I had no idea what she was trying to tell me, so I responded with "what?". After a couple of rounds of my teacher saying "I beg your pardon!" and me saying "what?", my teacher got fed up! She was so irritated and angry that she sent me out of the classroom!

I spent the rest of the class in the hallway, on the naughty chair, very perplexed, trying to make sense of what transpired.

A mother's perspective.

That evening I told my mother what happened at school and asked her to explain why I had gotten into trouble.

My mother, who knew English well, looked at me, smiled, and said, "My child, the teacher was trying to tell you that instead of saying "what", you should say "I beg your pardon" because it's more polite. Your teacher just didn't do it politely". So, safe to say, I learned more than one thing that day.

Life skills. Not English skills.

I was in this teacher's care for about a month, and due to my lack of English, we continued to have many misunderstandings.

I finished the school year without getting sent out of the classroom again. However, I didn't flourish as a student in the care of this teacher. It wasn't reading, writing, or arithmetic that I learned.

Instead, with the help of my mother's evening explanations about events that transpired during the school day, I learned what it meant to be polite, kind, caring, and compassionate. To value difference and diversity and the struggle of others.

Side note: A grown-up reflection

When I was older and could read English, I looked up “I beg your pardon!” in the dictionary. This is what I found:

  • Formal definition: When you want someone to repeat what they have just said because you have not heard or understood it.

  • Informal definition: Polite British way of saying, "What the f@#k did you say?!"

It makes me chuckle to think that perhaps by the end of our frustrating exchange, my irritated second-grade teacher probably meant "What the f@#k did you just say?!"


Visual Thread of English Idioms

This Ship30for30 essay was posted as a visual Twitter thread along with six original illustrations.


I came to Australia speaking very little English. Those first few months were a confusing and frightening experience. Language and culture shock at their most intense. And lots of misunderstandings.

Learning English wasn't easy for me. Idioms, metaphors and colloquial phrases were (& still are) especially tricky. Behold, six English idioms & expressions, illustrated by yours truly using @canva.

Some #ship30for30 fun


"I beg your pardon"

Meaning: A posh way of saying "What!" or "What the f@# did you say?!"

The full phrase of "I beg your pardon" is not commonly used these days. It has been replaced with the shorter "pardon".


"A wolf in sheep's clothing"

Meaning: Someone who disguises a malicious intent through an outward show of kindness.

Tip: "A sheep in wolf's clothing" is not the same thing as a "wolf in sheep's clothing". When using idioms it's best to get them right!


"Tickled pink"

Meaning: To be very happy or delighted by something.

Also, did you know that a synonym for the expression tickled pick is "pleased as punch".


"To take to (something) like a duck to water"

Meaning: To be naturally good at something, as if it were innate.

Seems that when it comes to idioms, ducks are very versatile: - Ducks in a row - Calm like a duck - Water of a duck's back - Milking a duck - Duck and cover


"Wear your heart on your sleeve"

Meaning: To show your feelings openly.

If you are the kind of person who wears your heart on your sleeve, then you probably don't have a good poker face!


"When pigs fly"

Meaning: Never

"When pigs fly" is an adynaton, a figure of speech in the form of hyperbole that uses exaggeration to express impossibility.

Adynaton examples

- It is raining cats and dogs

- I am so hungry I could eat a horse

- When hell freezes over


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