British word of the day v. 2

Have you ever gone around using a word for years and then later found out that it meant something different than you thought? The first time I ever travelled to the UK, one of my colleagues here taught me the word “knackered,” using it to refer to my jet-lagged self after my first long-haul international flight. I recalled this today, facing the consequences of having been on three continents in the last two weeks, and in time zones both 7 hours ahead and 7 hours behind British Daylight Time. (Note, these were travels in both latitude and longitude: sunset takes place around 11 pm in the UK, was at about 9 pm in Colorado and 7 pm in Singapore!) I looked online for a link to use for “knackered” as the British Word of the Day v. 2 (“stroppy” was v. 1) and found this:

knack·ered adj. Chiefly British. Very tired; exhausted.

But I found a slightly more … ahem … adult-oriented use of the word (scroll down the page). I then found a blog thread in which the alternative meaning was discussed and they make me feel a bit better by stressing that the “very tired” definition is more common these days than the other one. I sure hope so! I have been using the word for years now to mean tired and have NO idea what my professional colleagues would have thought of me if they assumed the other meaning. Egad, just goes to show how dangerous the expat life can be. Picking up new words from the local dialect is fun, but a bit of a cultural minefield.  The potential for substantial embarrassment is huge.


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