For some reason, one of the most common words ever is a huge communication problem.
Spoon (sháozi 勺子).
Why? I don’t know.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for a spoon, or another spoon, or a clean spoon in a restaurant, and the fúwùyuán 服务员 didn’t understand me. I say it slower, making sure to get the tone right, add a measure word for clarification (bǎ 把), but finally have to resort to plain old charades.
I also can’t tell you how many times a CHINESE PERSON has asked for a spoon, in my presence, and either gotten a blank look or a ladle in return.
Besides the divergent concept issue, what’s going on with spoons?! Is that a word that’s been specially selected for fāngyán 方言 diversity? (“Ok, now there are lots of words that are bound to sound almost the same from dialect to dialect, but some words need to be unique. Ok, everyone has to come up with their own word for spoon? Agreed? Good. Dismissed.”) Do restaurantes pay a tax for every additional spoon they hand out? Anyone?