In which I explain a silly multi-lingual in-joke

I keep domesticated rats as pets. One of my roommates in Flagstaff used to play Pokémon games when she was otherwise bored out of her mind and had time to kill. Apparently, there's this guy in one or more of them who, whenever you came into contact with him would ask, "Have I told you about my super-cool Rattata? He's in the top 1% of all Rattata!" -- a Rattata being a kind of Pokémon that basically amounted to a big purple rodent in a Pokéball.

We thought it was hilarious to wander around the apartment, waving rats at each other and asking this, mostly because we did have one that was probably in the top 1%, if "sheer fatness" counts as a ranked category. His name was Aramis, but we mostly called him the Corpulent Ratball. He ate the exact same diet as the other two, normal-sized rats, but he was so excruciatingly lazy skilled at hoarding calories that when he hunkered down he became an almost perfectly-spherical wad of rat fur with a pointy face stuck on one end.

He was also sometimes called "Mycroft", but the Sherlockian stories can wait for another day.

Rattata apparently evolve into something called a Raticate, which is just like a Rattata only more. We also though this was hilarious. Raticate* sounded like a verb of the same category as things like dedicate, and this sparked a load of pseudo-intellectual conversations about what exactly was involved with raticating, and how one might determine that ratication was taking place. To raticate* became the verb for "to do a bunch of typically rat-like things", including but not limited to: frantically grooming oneself for no obvious reason; shredding paper bedding that has already been pre-shredded by the person who put it in your cage; running around, bickering, and throwing each other off cage shelves, particularly at three in the goddamn morning; sitting on another rat to keep him still while you forcibly groom his head; throwing yourself around the cage and rattling the bars because you smell dinner cooking in another room; and so on and so forth.

Rats learn individual words, like dogs do. Mine usually learn, at minimum, the word "rat", because I address them generically as "rat" when I go to interact with them, and they've learned that the rat! noise has something to do with being played with and scratched behind the ears and fed leftover bits of whatever I ate for dinner. Once they learn it, they respond to it even when it's not me saying it. Our first pair lived in the front room of our apartment in Flagstaff, and went berserk when someone sat down to watch Ratatouille on the TV in there, because someone uses the word "rat" like every forty-five seconds in that movie, and yet no one was paying attention to them! They were deeply aggrieved, and had to be cuddled for a whole ten minutes before they forgot about it.

So I make a sort of half-hearted attempt to babble at them in not-English, in the hopes that if I teach them words by accident, they'll at least be words that aren't commonly said around the house to things other than rats. Usually it's German (I like the "Rathaus" pun -- it means "city hall". The Rat- in Rathaus is related to things like "ratify", but as it happens the word for rat is also Rat, and Haus by itself is a house), but other things slip in from time to time.

There are several ways to noun-ify a verb in Japanese, depending on what verb you're looking at, but one of the common ones is to take the last syllable of the verb, which ends in the vowel -u, and change it to the corresponding syllable that ends in the vowel -i. Nozomu is "to hope", and nozomi is "a hope"; tanomu is "to request" and tanomi is "a favor". The word for mouse or rat happens to be nezumi. My dictionary does not admit to knowing any such verb as nezumu*, so I've decided that nezumu* translates as to raticate*. Now I can come into the room and poke them awake with nee, mada nezundeiru ka? ("heeeey, are you raticating yet?").

As the late, great George Carlin once said, "These are the thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools..."


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