Talk to Me, Like

One of the more interesting aspects of visiting a place is negotiating the language in the place where you visit. This is true even when speaking of my native tongue. A week in Limerick for work seemed the perfect opportunity to listen to the Irish use of the English language. And so I had a pet project.

Perhaps a lucky coincidence was a layover in Germany and Storm Ciara, which gave me an opportunity to counterpoint the flowery exposition of the Irish against the pragmatic and direct (read: cruel) nature of German. The first voice we heard was our German pilot. Engineers are the most pragmatic beings on Earth and once you make that engineer German it hits a level of pragmatism and precision void of all humanity or capacity to feel. 

Pragmatic German Pilot

“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, you might have noticed that most of the flights within Western Europe have been cancelled, but our flight to Dublin has not been. This is due to the fact that there is no rain there, but there is a lot of high winds. We are going to give it a try. The good news is that we have plenty of fuel, so if we can’t land we can simply turn around and come back to Munich. OK? Good. So, now I instruct you to sit back and relax and we shall be on our way.”

My feelings about this broadcast are varied, but can mostly be labelled under the headings of anger, confusion, and horror. Unless he or she is speaking about the hopes of making up lost time or avoiding turbulence, one never likes to hear the word try come from a pilot’s mouth. This is especially true when the verb + noun to be attempted is land an airplane and the action / punishment resulting in the hypothetically failed future attempt is death in a fiery crash (with lots of fuel to burn) or returning to Munich after a 5 hour tour of northwestern Europe from 42,000 feet.

Additionally, this pilot and I have vastly different understandings of what entails ‘good news’ and what sort of things purvey ‘relaxation’.    

Spoiler alert: we made it. You may not want a German pilot to ease your worries, but you definitely want one landing an Airbus A320 in a rainstorm in Dublin.

What cheer we had at landing safely was properly spanked out of us by a long line at passport control. By the time we got outside to find our bus to Limerick the rain and sleet was coming down hard. Furthermore, we were late and therefore unsure about whether we’d be able to get on the later bus. The following was a conversation that warmed our cockles.

Read the rest of this entry »

2 Comments

Back to Éire

I’ve always been drawn to Ireland. I think this is because as a kid I was a firm believer in Brownies and Leprechauns. And by “as” a kid I mean “since” I was a kid. It has always seemed a mystical place to me. And while I am very aware of the fact that Ireland is far more than a land of light or spooky folktales and that the monsters and the horrors in Ireland have at times been very real, something about it has always drawn me. My favorite places are all over the place.

On my first trip to Ireland, back in the last few months on the last century, a perfect storm of weekend activities meant that instead of going to Galway, I went instead to Doolin. Doolin, a town of about 150 people, is right down the road from the Cliffs of Moher, and is home to two pubs known for traditional Irish music. I got a room in the Rainbow Hostel – the same one I’d stay in with two friend about 8 years later.

Read the rest of this entry »

1 Comment

Plant Eater

Plant Eater

It’s great to have friends who are moving. I mean, it’s sad, no doubt, but there is nothing like the dissipating resolve of a person standing in a room of their belongings and the knowledge that they have to pack them into boxes and bring them somewhere else. This is the way you end up with things. Lots of things. It’s even better when that friend is leaving on an airplane, so there’s no way they can bring everything.

It’s in this way that I have recently ended up with a yoga mat, a popcorn maker, lots of honey, a Pilates ball, a knife block, a set of pots, a rug, a cast iron pan, and a plant stand and several plants.

All of these things are useful and I have already used most of them. But the rug, the plant stand, and the plants have brought the most joy. They bring a cozy atmosphere to the flat that simply wasn’t there before. It has also given my cat a full circle of activity.

She climbs the plant stand

She eats the plants

She pukes onto the rug

It’s the circle of life.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

This.

As a language professional (sounds like I talk dirty to you for cash) I like being up on all of the current lingo trends and fads. The world of language is fascinating and always changing. There’s a way grammar books say we talk and then there’s the way we actually talk.

Most native speakers know that you technically shouldn’t say “I’m done working” or “I’m good” in response to “How are you?” They know that you shouldn’t say “literally” when you’re intensifying, but rather when you are speaking literally. But the thing is, this is how people actually speak.

If you can’t accept these things, you reveal yourself to be stubbornly behind the linguistic times. And this is nothing to be proud of, and you would do well to keep in mind that your generation is no better linguistically than this one. Your generation – greatest, boomer, X, Y, or Z – all gleefully broke language rules of yore and the ways you broke them became everyday language. So don’t be so judgmental.  

That being said, some of it bugs me like an ulcer on my tongue. For example, I hate a mix up between your and you’re or worse between they’re, their, and there. I find it to be a case where technology helps us cut linguistic corners and in the process renders many of us thumb-scrolling troglodytes.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Testy Time

Do you have a pen?

Testing time at the university is a fascinating week. In the first place, as a teacher, you get to meet a whole new group of students you never knew. On each register there are names that are nothing more than curios, a couple of eastern or central European words whose attendance blocks are unsullied by a pen marking them present. During testing week these people climb out of the woodwork to introduce themselves and to offer explanations as to why they haven’t seen you in three months. Almost always there has been a visa problem, an illness, a dead relative. All of which, naturally, somehow denies them use of their fingers and the email on the phone they have attached to their hands 23 hours a day.

In the midst of this, you have to then administer the test. Now, one would think that when you are walking into a written examination you might have on your person a pen. However, you would be terribly incorrect in this assumption. I have searched my inner slouch to figure out why a student would walk into a (and this is a key word) written test without a pen. I have come up with the three possible answers. One, their dedication to English is such that they were going to tear open a finger and write in blood. Two, they were hoping that not having a pen would result in an automatic pass. Three, they are missing a chromosome.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

The Zany Hours

Crazy Christmas 3D Glasses Claim Two Victims

My phone conversations with my dad are a kaleidoscope of patchwork information. He has at least nine cylinders burning at once, including ones for food, sports, and a category of questions so random and rapid fired that it’s like being on the phone with Alex Trebek on meth. The first order of business is the obituary section, wherein my dad tells me about that week’s death roll. Next might be the successes and failures of our local sporting teams. I can always tell when my dad has a game on in the background. Not because he’s mildly distracted (which he is) but because he interjects his commentary aimed at the happenings on the screen into the phone, infixing points into other unrelated points.

“So anyway when we visit do you think we could check out what the fuck is your problem, moron! Throw the fucking ball! You know, to that monastery with the good beer. You think?”

“Um what?”

“The monastery can we go there?”

“Sure.”

“The Eagles suck.”

Today my family is happening in the background. This means that my dad is downstairs instead of in the fortress of solitude he calls his bedroom. Today his backup group is my mom, my sister, and her daughter. Her son is almost certainly there as well, but he’s transfixed at some cartoon animals doing something in his iPad.

My mom and sister are arguing and, from what I can gather, today’s bitter dispute concerns the location of “that fucking pan” or maybe “a God damned bag of other God damned bags.”

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Sick Movies

Yes I know. And no I’m not suggesting that.

Christmas is a time of tradition. For what would Christmas be without opening gifts under the tree, a holiday Christmas party, or watching Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

For me (and probably you) Christmas has become a series of other traditions that are outside the usual. But are rather more minuscule and almost seemingly insignificant. So opening gifts and a family party brings along a cheesesteak and a visit and a night of drinking to my brother and sister’s house. Having saved all of my shopping for the consumerist haven of Langhorne, my mother and I will go shopping on the 23rd. I will feign exhaustion in the mall at some point, but will be overall enamored with it, knowing that I have no engagements other than wearing pajamas, eating a homecooked meal, and watching football with my dad. Our $10-20 bets on the holiday time college football explosion is another major tradition and is, outside of familial gossip, probably the number one topic of our conversations over Christmas.  

We watch in the living room, the kitchen, or his bedroom. Sit there doing trivia games and making lists of movies and books and countries we’d like to visit. When the game was getting too good or too bad, Dad always loses interest and suggests a few minutes of a movie or a show. I normally say no because the movies he suggests he is enormously familiar with and I am not. Nevertheless, I would come back from getting a bottle of water or from using the bathroom and come in as Alan Alda is flirting with Ellen Burstyn with a piece of steak or as Judy Dench is mired in the middle of a mindbogglingly boring conversation in As Time Goes By. A number of choices were made that I couldn’t understand. Who on earth would choose the original The Thing from Another World over John Carpenter’s 1982 remake? Insanity. I chalked it up to nostalgia and the need for comfort movies when you’re sick.   

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

19E

With an annoying neighbor, there’s no place to go

There’s always anticipation when it comes to your neighbors on a flight. Will they be a manspreader, a talker, a complainer, a model? You never know. I am aware that I – a short, stocky, hairy, cat enthusiast with itchy elbows – am not exactly a gold medal for my flight neighbor. But we lie to ourselves to get us through, do we not.

It’s after a preflight pee that I see my neighbor for the first time. He is stocky, tall, and overall large. He is standing in my spot and sorting through his carryon bag, which is on my seat. I stand across the aisle and wait until his wife says something to him, I suppose along the lines of “you’re in that guy’s seat.”

Neighbor looks at me and I say a gentle, “it’s OK, man, take your time.

And that’s exactly what he does.

When finally I sit I find that my neighbor is a manspreader and an armspreader. Our elbows begin what will be a seven hour spooning session. Before takeoff I put in my earphones and start a movie. My neighbor taps me on the shoulder.

“Yes?”

“Where you get?”

“These?”

“Yes.”

“They’re mine. I brought them.”

“Where you live?”

“Prague.”

Obviously not registering.

“It’s…Germany.”

“Why go Philadelphia?”

“My family lives there.”

“We go Atlantic City. You help us go there?”

“I mean, I can point to where you should go for buses and trains.”

“Yes. Good. What your name?”

“Damien.” Regret over giving real name palpable.  

“I am Hoopoo. It means Hope.”

We shake hands. Red flag. Whenever someone explains the meaning of their name a little part of me curls up and weeps openly. This is far from over.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

The Christmas Spirit Intensification

It’s as if the proper noun of Christmas itself has exploded and had a million babies that rent forth into the world to spread the merry word of yuletide cheer in a frankly almost horrific fashion

It’s that time of year again, isn’t it? The hustle and bustle. The Christmas specials. The music in the public spaces. The obnoxious people who feel the need to tell us that Christmas is about consumerism and that Jesus was born in the summertime (he’s such a Leo). Thank you for your trenchant observations. Captain Obvious.

But the fact is, I haven’t been much in the mood this year. I don’t know if it’s the dark sapping my energy like a seasonal vampire or the late year workload crushing what is left of my spirit, but it has taken me a while to get into the Christmas spirit. It’s been coming in increments.  

Last Friday I bought a Christmas bush in the flower shop in the lobby at school. It sat on my bookshelf looking rather sad and bushy. On Saturday I woke up and watched Love Actually, but I really only had it on for background noise while I worked on some last articles before break. I only came to when Hugh Grant and his bodyguard sang a Christmas carol (Good King Wenceslas? oof) and by then it was too late.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Recipient: Mr. Santa Claus Re: Yearly Assessment

Dear Santa Christmas letter in envelope with stamp. Holiday child wish list for Santa Claus. Blank postcard. Flat vector illustration

I hope you are well. I know the cold weather nips at your butt eczema; I hope you are taking your medicine. Cream is your friend. I am well. Naturally, I am reaching out for our yearly assessment. Within this letter I offer my own assessment of the year’s positive occurrences and interactions (i.e. nice), the personal developmental negative growth I have seen (i.e. naughtiness), and what I expect to gain in remuneration (gifts), assuming your performance assessment is on the relative same page.

As for the positives I hope to call attention to the good I have done this year. Or perhaps the “not bad” I have done to people. As per our feedback face-to-face last December, I was less vocal to detractors on social media. Your specific term that I “keep my big yap shut” proved particularly helpful and I use it as a mantra with the breathing techniques. If that doesn’t work, then I go for booze.

On social media and in small talk conversations on public transport and at while relating symptoms to my doctor, I mostly kept commentary to subjects like my cat, the weather, and varieties of complex carbohydrates. I tried to be more empathetic towards others. When hearing a particularly absurd excuse to get out of school work, I employed the technique you suggested wherein I quietly sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer until the spasms had passed. It worked. For the most part.

In terms of the negative growth, I admit to some transgressions. You no doubt have heard all of the language-chunks and verbal explosive device nuggets measuring between 3 and 5 words that I have used. For these, I sincerely apologize. By way of requesting sympathy for my slipups, I offer rational explanatory points, which attempt to outreach my finger at those more to blame. In the first place, my city’s sports teams sort of suck. This has been frustrating. Have you been to Philadelphia? Remember getting pelted by snowballs on a firetruck on Christmas Eve? Right. That’s the level of empathy and patience you’re dealing with here. Additionally, have you met the President of the United States? I mean, come on! I can only imagine you’re feedback assessment with that cocksu…., I mean assho…, I mean person. Keep my big yap shut. Keep my big yap shut. Keep my big yap shut. Ahh.

One last point. I live in the Czech Republic. You know this of course as you have tracked me down with the help of Christmas spirit colleague Ježíšek. But I have had two bureaucratic tidbits to get through this year and not even Ježíšek could do this without taking his Father’s name in vain. And maybe even laying out a few well-placed fucks.

Overall I have to believe that our growth this year over four quarters has been largely positive with a few slips in the negative sector. I do hope your feedback assessment states roughly the same informatics (I hope I used that right). As far as remuneration, I was hoping for nine hours of uninterrupted sleep and some of your eczema cream.

Sincerely,

You Know Who I Am

No Comments