Tag Archives: language

2123. More than a cow whisperer

It was amazing. Mrs. Delores Bjorkbom had overheard her husband talking to his cows. It wasn’t human talk like “How are you doing, Daisy?” or “You’ve got lots of milk today, Bessie.” This was pure cow talk. It was a language she did not recognize. Nor had she ever heard anything like it in her life. How she wished she had some devise on her to record it. It was phenomenal.

Word got out. Barnaby Bjorkbom was a cow whisperer. He was more than a cow whisperer; he spoke cow language. Next thing it was in all the papers.

Delores confronted her husband. “We know you communicate with cows in an intelligent fashion. I have invited the Press here next Thursday afternoon for a demonstration.”

Barnaby complied. The Press, plus a few stragglers, arrived. Mr. Barnaby Bjorkbom walked out into a meadow of cows. Cameras began rolling. Dorothy Pinkham of the Billingworth Press probably got the clearest recording. It is transcribed below:

J’kjdgf’;kllj ;ljksafs;lkhgf asf’;lkdg;lk[pkehymgd. Tjoplok[po ;lket.  Y;mlq ;kljlkj; loikre sdflkngpe er r lq. Ddf’;l’;re;m;l,  k;kjlsjdgp pkjjiohert m pkjkj; ojgkjfgl;kjslf;k poortm ‘lkkl;lk;lkplp r dflkj jk’lgs k; moof kjnlk;jnfsd  ls.

“Stunning. Absolutely stunning,” declared the editor of the Daily Sun. “As Mr Barnaby Bjorkbom spoke, all the cows looked up from their grazing, wide-eyed. They were engrossed in his every word.”

1910. Grandfather Giuseppe

Giuseppe felt out of place. Several months earlier he’d come from his home in Italy to see his daughter and meet his three grandchildren for the first time. It hadn’t worked out well. His grandchildren couldn’t speak Italian and he couldn’t speak English. After the initial excitement of the first meeting tension simmered.

Still, he maintained a positive attitude. With his daughter – now a solo mother – at work he was left to mind the grandchildren during the day. It was summer. They took advantage of him, especially the oldest who was fourteen. Giuseppe suspected, gauging things from the tone, that some of the English words used at him were not the politest.

Now with the summer over and the grandchildren back at school, Giuseppe set sail for home!

1694. Mum’s not the word

Some time ago, 11 August 2017 to be exact,  I posted about how sometimes living in different countries with the same language we presume that every word and phrase means the same. Some found it interesting, so I’m going to dig up another handful. I’ve lived only in Quebec, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New Zealand, so it’s not improbable that some words and phrases are also used in other places.

1. Quite
It took me thirty years to realize this, but when New Zealanders say “quite” we don’t quite mean the same as Americans. I realized this when I had an American friend visit and my sister invited us both to dinner. At the end of the meal my American friend thanked my sister and said the meal was “quite good”. My sister said to me later that he could at least have said the meal was nice.

As I understand now “quite good” in American means something is very good. In New Zealand, “quite good” means that really it could’ve been a lot better but I’m saying “quite good” to be polite. If something is “quite good” or “quite nice” then it’s struggling to be average.

2. Ta
“Ta” means “thank you” and is heard a lot more often than “thanks” or “thankyou”. It’s said like “tar” with a short A.

“Could you pass the sugar please.”
Henrietta passes the sugar.
“Ta.”

Speaking of sugar, I once said at table “Sugar please”, and the voluptuous blonde answered, “Is that a request or a term of endearment?”

Ta is not to be confused with “ta ta” which is a little kid’s way of saying goodbye.

“Say ta ta to grandma.”

3. Wop wops
Living in the wop wops means living beyond the black stump (as I think they say in Australia) or living in the boonies (as I think they say in America). I used to think that when Americans used “living in the boonies” they were saying “living in the bunnies” so naturally I took it to mean they were living a long long way out of town.

My Aunty Flo (hands up those who don’t have an Aunty Flo) was a raging extrovert and when she came to visit us from the city she would go on and on about how she was visiting the wop wops. As a little kid I was transfixed.

4. Bach
This word is pronounced “batch” – so it’s not the composer. I presume it comes from the phrase “Bachelor Pad”. A bach is a beach house (usually not very fancy) that a family (if they can afford it) lives in during weekends or holiday breaks. There is a difference between the term used in the North Island and what is used in the South Island (New Zealand is made up of two main islands). North Islanders call it a “bach” and South Islanders call it a “crib”. I have no idea what they call it anywhere else in the world, but if you know…

The only other trans-island difference in New Zealand English that I can think of is the word “couch” – that invasive grass that once you’ve got it in your garden it’s there to stay. North Islanders are inclined to call it “couch” and South Islanders are inclined to call it “twitch”. I have no idea what they call it anywhere else in the world, but if you know… Apparently both “couch” and “twitch” are variations of the Scottish word “quitch” for the wretched pest.

5. Jandals
Jandals are what Australians call “thongs” and some other countries call “flip flops”. I have not a great idea as to who calls what where. Jandals is short for Japanese sANDALS. Apart from Ernest Rutherford splitting the atom, Jandals are New Zealand’s sole contribution to Western Civilization. That and the automatic postal stamp vending machine – which has fast become obsolete because of email.

When I broke my ankle and had 4 pins screwed in, I was wearing jandals at the time. These days the foot is so deformed that I cannot fit into a shoe, but I do fit in when need be to a large pair of:

6. Gumboots
I think some other countries call them wellingtons, or galoshes – you’ll know what you call them from the picture. Galoshes for me are quite different; they are a rubber sheath that one pulls over the top of regular shoes when it’s rainy or muddy. So I’d be interested to know what you call both of these things in your country. When I was growing up on a dairy farm we lived in our gumboots. The back door would usually have a dozen or so pairs of gumboots of different heights and sizes all higgledy-piggledy so that mother would say nine times a day “Pick up those gumboots before someone trips on them.”

7. Dag
A dag is a bit of dried you-know-what hanging off the wool on a sheep’s bottom. When the sheep runs along the dags rattle. This gives rise to the common expression “Rattle your dags” which means “Get a hurry on”.

The other common use of the word dag is in such expressions as “What a dag!” or “She’s a dag”. It can refer to an amusing person or event. “She’s a dag!” would amount to the same as “What a character!” and “What a dag!” would amount to the same as “That’s very funny!”

8. Pack a sad
As far as I can see the expression “Pack a sad” is not universally used, but is common over here. If I’m wrong I’d be happy to be corrected. “Pack a sad” means “Throw a tantrum”.

And then the teacher packed a sad.
There’s no need to pack a sad just because I smashed up your car.

That’s enough for one day. Thanks for reading, and I hope you found the occasional thing a bit of a dag.

1638. A friendly encounter

It’s time again to splash out with a bit of science fiction. Except this time it’s not fiction. It really happened so it’s more like science fact. It might read like fiction but as the saying goes, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” All I can say is that it happened to me and many would regard me as a man of veracity.

Recently an alien spacecraft landed on my back lawn. It was in the traditional flying saucer shape that many who make up stories like to portray the flying machines of aliens. Contrary to assorted popular accounts, this flying saucer did not leave any scorch marks on the grass of my lawn. Scorch marks are a piece of fictionary nonsense apparently.

I immediately went out onto my back porch to watch. (Silly me! I forgot to take my camera and I don’t have a clue how to take a photo with my phone. The only photo I have ever taken with my phone was quite by accident. It was mainly of my feet as I checked for any text messages while standing at a urinal). A door opened and out popped an alien. To be honest, it looked a bit spooky. More like what we conceive as a goblin; long pointy ears and a fairly long nose. It was very thin with long legs and wore green trousers and shirt. There was a neck piece in green and gold fabric sewn in triangles – a little like we might envisage Harlequin as wearing here on planet earth. (I mention this detail, not because I’m particularly interested in fashion, but because there might well be some readers who are. The accompanying picture is not a photograph of the event as already stated but an artist’s impression from the pen of a relatively talentless illustrator).

The alien approached me and my first thought was “How are we going to communicate if it doesn’t speak English?” The alien came prepared. By speaking through what looked like a large piece of cardboard with a plate-sized circular hole cut in the middle we were able to understand what each was saying. Immediately it said

Hlkj dflakj ljkhasdf kjalk jl sfgh likj alkjsa.

And I replied with

Ilkjetlkjb kl l’kjal ’lkjelk lkasdflkjalkj klkl lkkl kkga lkawpoije.

It then returned to the craft and flew off.

I was delighted to have been of help.

1563. Wash that mouth out

Jason was staying with an Italian family. He was in Italy to perfect his Italian. He’d learnt it pretty well at school and his parents thought that to send him to Italy on a home stay for several months would be the icing on the cake.

Through some agency or other a nice family to stay with was selected. The family lived in Bergamo, a city in the Lombardi region not too far north of Milan. What an adventure!

It didn’t take long for Jason to be gabbling away fluently in Italian. In fact he was masterful. He even joined the local library and read books in Italian as well.

The Giunta Family were delightful; so kind and welcoming. They had two sons, quite a bit younger than Jason, and a daughter roughly the same age as Jason. Jason and Klarissa got on well. It was therefore quite logical that Jason should ask… ask her… what were…

If there was one thing Jason didn’t know about the Italian language it was the dirty words. You don’t really know a language until you can swear in it, with proper cause of course. So Jason asked Klarissa. “Could you tell me what the swear words are in Italian? What are the dirty words?”

Fourteen year old Klarissa rushed to her father. “Jason has used some naughty words to me! Jason wants to talk naughty words to me!”

Jason was on the next plane home.

1414. God saith

The band of faithful had gathered together in the little church. The vicar was reading from the Bible:

Thou Lord hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps.
Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves.
Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth.
Mine eye mourneth by …

Suddenly there was a great flash of light. All had to shield their eyes. A great reverberating voice boomed through the church:

Oh for God’s sake! I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. Can’t you speak proper English?

At first all thought it was the voice of God, but then they realized it was the local atheist who had rigged up a system and was playing a trick. A visiting archdeacon taught the atheist a jolly good lesson by beating a bit of charity into him with a baseball bat.