The language teachers I've had are among both the best and the worst I've ever run into. The Japanese instructor at NAU was one of my favorites -- she made it a point to answer virtually any question you asked, even if she had to double-check the hallway and shut all the classroom doors first, in case someone responsible was walking by. My German instructors were also excellent, particularly Frau Doktor, who was once asked what pirates yelled in auf Deutsch, and ran upstairs to her office so she could retrieve a children's book which translated "Arrrrrr!" as "Tjaaaaaa!"

Some of the others have not worked so well. You may have noticed that I have a tendency to creatively mangle whatever language I'm using at any given time, and occasionally even switch out to another one if the main one doesn't have the exact word I need. It's not a matter of doing it wrong; it's a matter of intentionally applying a different pattern to something, specifically one which is noticeably incorrect in that context, but is the correct one to be using in some other context, to which I am adding an additional pointer. Some language teachers are so invested in instructing me in the technically correct way to do things that they seem to miss when I'm doing it wrong for humor purposes.

For example, I have a tendency to describe my pets as nezundeiru in Japanese. This is the present-ongoing form of the verb *nezumu, which does not actually exist, but can be derived via the regular rules of back-formation as the verb that would have the noun form nezumi, which is the word for 'rat'. The actual way to describe 'doing things in the manner of a rat' would be something like nezumi-you de suru or nezumirashiku suru, using either the compound noun for or the comparative adjective/adverb form for 'rat-like' and the generic action verb for 'to make/to do'. I've similar silly jokes involving the fact that the word for 'rat' in German is Rat, and there exist such other valid German words as Rathaus (looks like 'rat-house', but the Rat- part is actually related to ratify, not rats; it means 'City Hall') and ratzen (a casual verb for 'to get some kip' or 'to catch a nap', which is something to which actual rats dedicate a lot of time) which have nothing at all to do with rodents, but sound like they might.

(We also once had a particularly thick-coated cat whom I referred to interchangeably in French as le Cheveux-lier [from cheveux, 'hair', crammed into the format of chevalier, 'knight'] and in English as Sir Sheds-A-Lot, but nobody else in the family speaks any French, so I think that one only amused me.)

Sensei and Frau Doktor both thought these were quite funny. They took the fact that I knew the real way to do things and an appropriately screwball way to apply the wrong ruleset as reflecting well on both their teaching and my ability to pay some goddamn attention to things, which in fact it was. Sensei actually used to give bonus points for appropriately stupid puns in speaking assignments -- a friend and I once got top marks for doing a sketch involving Men in Black and a misinterpretation of the phrase soujisuru, which literally means 'to clean things/to wash up', but is used metaphorically to mean 'to tie up loose ends left by shady goings-on, particularly by disposing of people who might otherwise talk' as it is in English. You were pretty much guaranteed an A on your assignment if by the end of it Sensei was giggling uncontrollably with her head down on the desk.

I also find it hilarious when other people do it. One of the Japanese exchange students once decided to tell me my hair was *akapatsu, which is understandable despite not really being a word. Kinpatsu, involving the kanji for 'gold', is a descriptor for blond hair. I'm vividly titian, so he swapped out kin-, 'gold' for aka-, 'red' instead. Occasionally other people get it, but are afraid to say anything for fear it wasn't intentional. When Moggie was in Japan for a semester, she needed a hanko stamp for signing documents; they aren't customarily made for Western names, so she had to pick a Japanese name to use while there. Moggie, who is extremely blonde without any chemical help, picked Kaneko, in which the kane- is that same character for 'gold' used in kinpatsu, on the theory that nobody could possibly forget that. The Japanese people handling her paperwork kept looking at the stamp, then at her, then at the stamp again, saying nothing but obviously wondering, 'does the foreigner know it's being funny?'

My own Japanese monogram, Aki, is along the same lines, only worse. As a noun, it's written 秋 and is put together from the left half, a variant of 'tree', and the right half, 'fire'; as a noun, it means 'autumn'. I'm really bokukko-pushy tomboy when I speak, so while there are feminine names that use it -- the simplest is 秋子, Akiko, which is just Aki with the feminine diminutive on the end -- I'm using the ambiguous unisex variant. (There's also a boy's name, 秋彦, Akihiko, but that would be so strikingly off-model that it would just be considered wrong instead of appropriate in a weird, circuitous way.) It's also used as a hue descriptor, aki-iro, where it means 'the orange-red color that leaves turn in autumn', which is roughly right for my hair. I furthermore have an autumn birthday -- early September -- but that's more of a cute coincidence than anything.


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