Sunday, May 24, 2009

Language Lessons

In my professional life, I share an office with a Taiwanese immigrant who recently gained her citizenship. Often, we have miscommunications. She interprets everything I say literally. And almost all cultural idioms are lost on her at this point in time. Figures of speech are orators on a podium or words on a value chart. It makes things, well, a pain in the ass.

My office mate has been in the United States for almost fifteen years and learned English while she was growing up. Although she is quite fluent, we sometime struggle with some of the nuances of my native tongue. But of course, English is not American...and American is not Uh-Merican...and there ain't no "Uh in Merica."

So every once in a while I have decided to help me office mate in learning more about being 'Merican.

For example, I figured I would post this simple daily reminder on our door. That way she remembers every time she enters and leaves the office that...

This is a pretty big lesson to learn at first. Imagine early man touching the Monolith in
2001: A Space Odessy--It is that glorious, but different.

Also my office mate is quite frugal, which is a wonderful trait to have in ever-environmental oregon, but there is a point of obsession, where I have to tell her, "Just throw the damned paperclip away. It is not going to be recycled!"

My office mate will almost always question, "Why? But I try to recycle everything..."

And I always have to retort, "But you're 'Merican now! And # won ain't # too!"

There are other key 'Merican phrases I am trying to teach her. These consist of the short proto-troglodytic yokelisms of
Yup, Git r done, and Jus' move it a pecker hair. Fortunately, she has already mastered the "Well No Shit..." which is both a great interrogative and exclamatory statement.

This linguistic experiment will probably continue for many months. We have to work on accent issues, and the semantics of humor. Since I already believe that irony died along with God, Nietzsche, and Alanis Morisette's portrayal of divinity in Dogma, I know that I cannot instill any of that into her to even fathom what I am trying to create.

I just believe that Shaw, Quine, and Chomski would be some sick, sick way.

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