The first mindfuck of the week was the word mindfuck. Of course, we know this term in a common use in English, but this was being used in a Czech article.

Téma: 10 filmových mindfucků, které možná neznáte

(theme: 10 mindfuck films you might not know)

Languages are absolutely filled with “loanwords,” which are words and phrases that we simply take from other languages and use as our own. We all (languages, that is) do it. So there’s no real penalty for appropriating language. We nabbed yoga from Sanskrit, klutz from Yiddish, and woodchuck from the Cree. It would take the rest of the year to list them all. We are linguistic thieves and it’s great.

Alongside content words, we have also snagged metaphors that we don’t change from the original. We use schadenfreude for pricks who like others’ misfortunate and je ne sais quoi to comment on someone who’s hot in a way that we can’t quite explain (ahem).

Some etymological sources put mindfuck in use back in the fifties and linked to brainwashing during the Korean War. But for most of us, the phrase gained meaning in the 2000s with the rise of the listicle and the new, surprising information about old things that can be conveyed. Now our minds are fucked by unusual history, film, and animal facts.

What makes the Czech use of mindfuck such a mindfuck is that mindfuck is a loan idiom. Sure, they have lots of loanwords as the internet, Facebook, globalization, western influence, and Quentin Tarantino  make “international” words far more in use here. Sorry, Paj, Komin (come in), are all seen now around Prague. Last month I walked past a restaurant which boasted Apel Paj and Snickers Paj spelled out in phonetic Czenglish. But mindfuck is the first idiom loanword I have really noticed. Perhaps in twenty years Czech will be a vastly different language.  

While that is something new, the next mindfuck is an old thing new. While I was waiting at a bus stop last week to go have wings, a man walked by me wearing a shirt that read Marc O’Polo.

Everything changed at that bus stop. The famous traveler was now transformed from an Italian to an Irishman. His habits became less about pasta and more about dark beer. His accomplishments were stolen from the boot and rewarded to the emerald isle. Also one of the water sports of my youth was now enormously in question. Many a day I had waded water, blinded by chlorine, calling to my slippery comrades: Marco! I still hear their mocking refrain: Polo! Should I have said Marc and they refrained O’Polo? Would the game have been the same if it had? I think not. O’Polo sounds like an alluring taunt. “Oh, Pollllloooo!” The game’s goal was changed from horrifying water sport to flirtatious coo. My youthful comrades in my memory were now wearing halter tops and garter belts. And I liked it!      

That, I could get over, but now all of my childhood games were now in linguistic question. Was it Tugo Fwar, Is Py, Ticta Actoe, Monk Eyin Themiddle, Tru Thord Are and Mo Ther Mayi?

I will never know. I’m still stuck thinking about my friends in our community pool in garter belts flirting the names of Irish explorers. Maybe I’ll go out and strike up a game of Dod Geball.   a

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