Today we’re talking about foreign phrases that we use, but more are in my head than can be read.
My mother’s first language was Italian and boy, did the phases abound around me from her and her siblings. But don’t ask me to translate or even say them.
For one thing, she never taught me to speak Italian, but she expected perfect pronunciation if I ever attempted so much as the names of pastas. I used to think that she and the family were bragging when they said that her Umbrian family spoke ‘the true Italian’, but when I was older I was told by one woman that my mother’s Italian was “beautiful”. She added, “Here I am, a Sicilian married to an Abruzzese and I talk like a Napolitan!” A few years ago when my priest’s elderly Sicilian mother heard where my family was from, she said, “Oh, they speak the REAL Italian up there; we murder the language.” So, knowing that my mother felt that I, too, murdered the language, I never learned the phrases.
Not that I actually know what some of them mean. Mom’s family latched-on to any silly phrase, or misspoken one and it had a special meanings usually known only to a few. Many were almost parables. I just sort of knew how to react to certain phrases, I guess more or less like one trains a dog. And I can’t think of one of those phrases that comes out of my mouth. No, not one.
Of course, like everyone knows”capeesh”, (Understand?) which you’d never have heard from my grandparents, I can tell you. It is a corruption of capisci, but my family would say, Tu capito? I use “Capeesh” on the grandkids. They know what it means. It’s more like: “You got it?”
One time my sister and I got into a conversation with a young American fellow of Polish extraction. We have a number of half-Polish cousins as my cousin married into a great Polish family and had a number of kids, but we had one Polish aunt-by-marriage of whom we were particularly fond. Her name was Wanda but everyone called her “Vay” The fellow said he could teach us a few phrase. I said to my sister,
“We could say, ‘Oh, Vay’…” and before I could finish, the man said, “That’s not Polish”. Stunned, I said, “What’s not Polish?” He said, “It’s not”. A comedy of errors ensued before I realized he thought I was trying to say, “Oy vey!”
I still don’t know any Polish phrases.
When I was in Grade school the county decided to TRY to teach us French, why, I will never know. Almost none of the teachers spoke French, the beginnings of educational television had a show where the woman spoke exaggerated French and we kids only made French–sounding noises.(I stopped right here and went online to hear the songs I thought I remembered and I was right; we were wrong! ) I do remember “Petit Chaperone Rouge” [Little Red riding Hood] and if a wolf is around I might say, “Monsieur Le Lupe”, that is about the extent of the French that I use from there, but you can imagine, not all that often. I may let out with maybe a “Mon Deux!” And although I say “Pardon!”(ala Françoise, I will also say,”Excusez-moi”, But I also say “Merci, Buck-o”! (Any French person would have a cow!)
“C’est la vie” was already quoted this week; I’ve been known to say that doing a poor William Shatner impression. [Star Trek: Search For Spock, for you non-Trekkies]
I took a couple of months of Spanish, but I don’t think anything but “Que pasa”,” Por favor” or “Amigo/Hombre” comes out much, but I do use them. If you took Spanish in American schools in the 1960’s, the first dialog would have been “Hola, Isabelle, Como esta?” “Estoy bien gracias, y tu?” Sometimes one of us will simply come up with that and we’ll banter, throwing out only the lines we remember such as: Where are you going, Juan? The library, (La biblioteca, which I used to use), I have to look for a book. The dark-haired boy, (or girl), is a friend of my brother’s, (or sister’s). I forgot my notebook!
My sister still uses “Albondegas” all the time…meatballs, that’s what they were having for lunch, but I forgot how to say lunch, cafeteria or how to ask for albondegas.
My Husband and I took a semester of Russian thirty-one years ago. I can still say, “excuse me”, “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye”, but I never use them. I did like the way ‘hallucination’ and ‘Egypt’ were pronounced and I will use them, but how often do you think either of those come up in conversation in North Central Kentucky?
Many years ago I took a couple of months of German, which is a language I could readily grasp. I am sorry that my circumstances did not allow me to continue, because a couple of phrases and words I picked up back then come to mind faster than English sometimes, for no real reason. “Entschuldigung!” gets used when I bump into my kids or step on a cat’s tail, I have no idea why.
“Fleißig” ,(basically pronounced “ flysig“; Iris will correct me), is a word that really stuck with me. English does not have a corresponding word and it is usually translated as “industruous“. That isn’t a great translation. I means to be energetically busy and productive, it means, well, to be industrious, but…
I’ll leave you with these stories. My late brother-in-law heard this somewhere, latched onto it and would not let it go: He’d say, “I’ll be the same“ when he would leave,every time he left, as if he were saying “Auf Wiedersehen.“ It got to be very annoying very quickly.
Jeff’s post yesterday reminded me of my second story. Many years ago my sister and I went to see my cousin’s son take his vows prior to his ordination to the priesthood. We had not seen him or his family for a long time, although my mother kept in touch with her niece, his mother. That cousin was one who married into the wonderful, BIG Polish family. Two of her brothers-in-law were popular priests and one of their sisters WAS a a sister, in fact, she had been a ‘Sister Superior‘, a very well-known and well-loved Sister of the Holy Cross. Just as the ceremony was about to begin and things got quiet, I could not stifle a sneeze. Wide-eyed and tissue still to my nose, I looked at my sister to see if I had disturbed ;anyone, but that was a mistake; my sister is a prankster.She looked around the vast room, the church was a sea of priests, bishops, monsignors, nuns and friars, habits and Roman collars as far as the eye could see. She looked back and me and said,“Gesundheit!“
If I hadn’t disturbed anyone with my sneeze, I did trying to control a fit of giggles.
I know I use more foreign phrases, but , I wonder, do I even listen to myself?
How about you? Did you think of any that you use?