Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fun with Language

I love listening to non-native English speakers. Their words put a twist on the mundane and offer a refreshing look at life.
Author Phyllis Mattson who wrote War Orphan in San Francisco, a fascinating story through letters of how she and her parents were separated during WWII, mentioned that the word “become” in German means “to get or receive.” She said it took her a long time to stop “becoming” an artichoke or piece of bread when she was just asking for some. But what a neat concept--the you-are-what-you-eat mentality.
My youngest daughter’s Russian piano teacher once said, when my daughter had forgotten to keep the beat, “You do not like to remember to count.” Exactly. How many times do we forget because we do not like to remember?
My Chinese husband doesn’t provide as much raw insight anymore. This past week though, I thought he‘d given me a new one. He was in Thailand on business and had stopped to see some old friends of ours who recently moved to Bangkok.
“We went to a restaurant called Cabbages & Condoms,” he said.
I was sure that this was an interesting language issue.
“You heard me correctly,” he said. “There were condoms on the walls and dripping from the trees.” (Actually he didn’t use the term “dripping,” but I could just imagine.)
At the end of the meal, which he didn’t describe as he was so busy telling me of the ambience, they brought the check and fortune cookies? No. Dinner mints? No. You guessed it.
Apparently, C&C is a non-profit whose aim is to combat the lack of Family Planning assistance and promote safe unions.
But back to language. Most recently my eldest daughter called from college, procrastinating. She had to write a paper on Democracy and Capitalism.
“Ughh," I sympathized.
“It should only take a couple of hours,” she said.
“That’s it?”
“Oh, well this isn’t the final paper,” she said. “It’s what my teacher-- who’s from Serbia-- calls a Discovery Draft.”
The Discovery Draft. How hopeful and inspiring without alluding to the garbage it will become. How beautiful.
Have you heard any interesting uses of language? Please tell.


Anonymous said...

Louie once hurt "the elbows of my legs" when he was 4.

Anonymous said...

I love this discovery draft thing. I'm playing with that right now--using Donald Maass' workbook to discover things about my character and writing some scenes off that--but IN NO ORDER, which is a bit freaky. But good!

Pam said...

Jana, my Italian grandmother would always say that something was "very dear" when she meant very valuable or expensive. She would also say to my Aunt..."JoAnn you make me so full of mad!". And my dad would always tell me to park in the "slanticular" spots to protect my doors from dings.

Eric Rasmussen said...

When I was living in Singapore I related to Mable Kong,my supremely gifted secretary, an incident during a family trip to Bali where we saw a group Balinese seated on the sand around a bamboo tower they had build. They were chanting. Atop the tower a duck walked about, a rope tied to its leg. I mentioned that one of our daughters said, "Daddy, maybe they untied it and let it swim away." Mable sighed and said, "fat hope!"

Lynn said...

Wow. I'm just not sure what I would order at a restaurant named that. Can't even bring myself to type the name (blush).

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