Friday, January 25, 2008

If You’re Not Worth a Good Laugh, You’re Not Worth Much

That’s a French adage I firmly believe in. So in the spirit of having a good laugh at my expense (hey, I’m a writer, my skin is like titanium plating), I’d like to share my few bumbling steps in English, the lovely language I learned at 18 about, well, exactly 18 years ago, when I joined the military. If someone would’ve told me then that I’d not only be able to hold a conversation but to write books in English, I would’ve smacked them upside the head for making fun of me. But I can hold conversation (notwithstanding the accent, mind you) and I do write in English.

For those who’ve had to learn another language as an adult, you *know* how hard it is. You have to force your face into different ways, do things with your tongue you never knew you could (hey, that’s always a bonus right?) and give up on your dignity for the first year. I made mistakes that would curl up your toes. I’ve listed the most outrageous, along with a list of words that I still have trouble with.

First of all, in the French language, we don’t have the “th” sound. When I see “the”, to me it registers as “de”. Same for initial “h” words like hotel (which I pronounce the same way as apple, otel). Second, French people speak fast. Because I’m stubborn and didn’t want to slow down to learn, I’d launch into incomprehensible rapid-fire English that probably sounded like an alien language. Everything time the phone would ring at work, I’d run the other way.

One of the biggest faux pas I did learning English was get confused between a very innocuous word and another, lets say, less polite word. It went something like this:

At work, in the hangar where everybody hangs out before the actual start of the day. Lots of people, all guys, all English. Me the only gal, the only French. Fun.
Sergeant Boss: “Hey, Nat, you’re late. Why?” (he was always succinct, that man).
Me: “Oh, Sarge, I was driving to work but when I turned into the back road, there was a sound under my truck. I stopped to look. I think I hit a skank. And my truck still stinks.”

Did you know it’s possible for a man to laugh so hard he farts? Yes. My boss did. I had to wait a good, oh what, five minutes while everyone was rolling on the floor for one of them to explain to me what I’d said. Oh dear. So that day, I learned the difference between skunk and skank. Not the same.

Here’s a list of words that make my inner Chihuahua want to chew her leg off:

Skunk - skank

Kitchen - chicken (always get these two mixed up)

Version - virgin (oh yeah, there’s another good story with that one)

Horror - whore (“Wanna see a whore movie, Bob?” “Hell yeah!”)

Dog - Doug - dug (all sounds the same to me and comes out the same as well)

Collar - color (I say “koh-ler”, I know, makes no sense)

How - ow (“Ow are you?”)

Poo - pew (yeah, in church, me, I sit on a poo)

Through - true - thru (all comes out sounding like what a parakeet would say...TRROOO!)

That gives you an idea how much fun it is for a true anglophone to speak with me. There’s a lot of “Excuse me? What did you say?” And because I always sound as if my life will end in the next minute and I have to finish that conversation before I diiiiie, add the rapid-fire element, and talking with me is pretty fun. I like to think.
Next time you deal with someone who can’t master that beautiful language that is English, have a bit of patience and please, if she says she hit a skank with her truck, don’t call the police right away...


Ciana Stone said...

LMAO! Nat, you always give me a laugh. And for those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of speaking with Nat, I have to say from personal experience that it is a delight.

Nat is a woman who has no problem laughing over a mistake in pronunciation, and is the most eager person I've known to learn all of the slang words we American folk don't realize we use so much.

Her musical accent and most pleasing feminine lilt make English sound exotic and sexy even when she's saying 'ow are yu,. She's cute and funny and one of the most entertaining and enthusiastic people I've ever known and I adore listening to her.

I admire anyone who can master another language. This southern gal was once told in a university French class that I would be better served taking woodworking. Sigh. I fear the man was right.

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend (however you pronounce it).

NathalieGray said...

Awww, Ciana! And I LOVE your accent. Folks, she taught me how to say fuck you in Southern American English. You say "Bless your heart!" See? I'm learning stuff :P

It's true that I have this squeaky little voice and funny accent, so people expect a petite woman. But when they meet me, BAM! My voice would fit a "tinker belle" kind of persona much better than the tank girl that I am in reality.

Woodworking eh? I was good at that in high school. I made a plank. Yes, a very nice rectangular plank.

What?! It was *perfectly* rectangular!

Amber Green said...

The Lone Ranger's Last Request

The Lone Ranger was ambushed and captured by a renegade war party.

The Chief proclaims, "So, you are the great Lone Ranger. In honor of the Harvest Festival, you will be executed in three days. Before I kill you, I will consider granting you three requests. What is your first request?"

The Lone Ranger responds, "I'd like to speak to my horse."

The Chief frowns, but nods.

Silver is brought up. The Lone Ranger whispers in his ear, and the horse gallops away.

Later that evening, Silver returns with a beautiful blonde woman on his back. As the war party watches, the blonde enters the Lone Ranger's tent and spends the night.

The next morning, the Chief admits he's impressed. "You have a very fine and loyal horse, but I will still kill you in two days. What is your second request?"

The Lone Ranger again asks to speak to his horse.

Silver is brought to him, and he again whispers in the horse's ear. As before, Silver takes off and disappears over the horizon.

Later that evening, Silver returns, this time with a voluptuous brunette, more attractive than the blonde. She enters the Lone Ranger's tent and spends the night there.

The following morning the Chief is again impressed. "But I will still kill you tomorrow. What is your last request?"

The Lone Ranger responds, "I'd like to speak to my horse. Alone."

The Chief is curious, but he agrees. Once more, Silver is brought to the Lone Ranger's tent.

When they're alone, the Lone Ranger grabs Silver by both ears, looks him square in the eye and says,

"Listen very carefully.


I said...

'Bring POSSE!'"

Nicole Austin said...

ROFLMAO! Oh man! I can't wait 'til we all get together at RT. This is going to be such a blast!