Thursday, February 5, 2009


For a while now I've been hearing people say "Simon," when they are on the phone, and I've never understood why. At first I thought it might be a word I was unfamiliar with, but when I looked it up, nothing came about. I convinced myself that I was hearing it wrong.

But then I thought that it could be a person's name. The way it was pronounced, "See-mohn" would be a logical answer for the equivalent of the English name Simon. But then I thought about the fact that I've never met a Simon down here, and the only one I've ever heard of was Simon Bolivar. So again, I was confused.

But every once in a while I would walk by someone on the phone and hear "Simon, Simon," and it utterly perplexed me. I wanted to ask them what the deal was, but it's not usually the kind of thing you do, just going up to a stranger on the street and asking them why they're saying something. But finally, I have discovered what Simon means.

As it turns out, they are saying the name Simon. But they are not referencing anyone in particular. Instead, it's just a childish way to say the word "Si," or yes. So when someone is on the phone and in agreement with what is being said, they will sometimes say Simon instead of Si. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and I'm sure we have our own little equivalents in English. Two examples I could quickly think of are "Ready Freddy?" and "No prob, Bob." Of course we are not talking to someone named Fred or Bob, unless by chance we are. But it is understood what we are saying.

But I'm glad that I've finally figured out what one catch phrase means. It's not something that I could have read in a dictionary or found out from a class about grammar. It's just something you learn from immersion and living in a culture. And that's pretty cool. Right, Simon?


Justin said...

One of my personal favorites: "Hit the road, Jack!"

Cool post, Jon. I solved a little mystery like that myself. My students kept saying, "Teacha, he is so motorcycle!" And for the longest time I had no clue what they were talking about. Then I realized they obviously don't know the word "annoying," so they just call other kids "motorcycle" because everyone knows how loud and obnoxious all the scooters (what they call "motorcycles"...) are. The city is full of them.

Jon said...

That's also a good one that I didn't think of. So yea, there are tons of those little phrases that we have. One thing I've used as an example is "Don't go there," which is definitely a dated phrase, but was used by some people for a while. A native speaker would understand, but to a second language speaker, that would make no sense. Go where?

That's pretty funny that your students say the thing that annoys them instead of looking up the word itself. Thanks for reading the blog.