I’m a military policeman in the US Air Force and was temporarily stationed at RAF Lakenheath. Due to my low rank at the time, I was posted at one of the gates to the base. There was a rather large renovation effort underway, and many of the workers and deliveries came through my post. I was instructed to phone a certain number to reach the point of contact (who was British) to confirm all deliveries before allowing access to the base. That afternoon, a flatbed truck with a load of turf showed up. The driver and his helper presented their bill and identification, and I placed my call to the gentleman as I had been instructed. This is where my ignorance of British phrases reared its’ ugly head. You see, in the US, turf is called “sod.” When I called and told this nice gentleman that there were two men there with a truckload of sod for him, you can imagine his reaction. The truck driver completely lost it. When he stopped laughing and explained that in the UK, sod is an abbreviation for sodomy, I was mortified. After stammering my apology and explaining myself, I allowed the driver (who still had tears streaming down his face) and his partner on base.
I learned this valuable lesson that day: just because we both were speaking English, we weren’t necessarily talking in the same language.