Monday, April 04, 2022


What with the Bay Area being somewhat diverse, it isn't particularly unusual for different languages to be enjoyably switched on during the day. At work recently I have spoken Dutch, Indonesian, and Yiddish, in addition to English. On my days off Cantonese and sometimes Mandarin come into play. My Mandarin is so bad that even I have a hard time grasping it.
German, I can also understand, but not very well speak.
As the construction of that sentence shows.

My very best German is reading the label on a pack of aktivkohlfilter, and a zigarettenspitze.
It sounds more impressive in German. Sometimes I will happily chant it aloud, rejoicing in how businesslike and efficient it sounds. Es klingt doch ganz bureaukratisch.

I carved my own zigarettenspitze out of the nosebone of an enemy.
Believe that at your own risk.
Would I lie?

The most famous zigarettenspitzenbenutzers whose visages automatically come to mind are my distant relative Franklin Delano Roosevelt, nonkinsman Hunter S. Thompson, and Johnny Dep. As well as the phrase 'hier können wir nicht anhalten, das ist fledermausland!", which is what the tourists must hear when they ask for directions. It confirms what they already knew, and because it is in their language, it comforts them.

Germans, as is well known, like to clench things in their teeth.
That's why they have so many of them.

One should always have a few sentences in foreign languages that can be advantageously deployed when the situation calls for such.

Phrases like "you can't do this to me, I'm an American" (just watch me, dingo), "can you change this hundred dollar travellers cheque" (here are TWO shiny coins that have almost no value, the rest is my commission), and "I demand to speak to the United States consular official" (that is easy, comrade, he is in the next cell) are, for all intents and purposes, absolutely useless.

By the way, the Dutch term for poultry is 'plumed cattle'(*).

Sometimes foreign languages work differently.


The moulted flight feather of my aunt might indeed be in the office of my uncle. La plume de ma tante est dans le bureau de mon oncle. Textbook perfect, and grammatically correct, but totally without any practical use. Far better to simple tell them "nous ne pouvons pas nous arrêter ici, c'est le pays des chauves-souris" or "on peut pas rester ici, c'est le pays des chauves-souris". More relevant, and therefore much more comforting.

Also more appropriate when I clench a zigarettenspitze.
It might have a cigarillo in it, however.
I don't use aktivkohlfilters.


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