Monday, October 18, 2010

The Perils of Comprehension

The hot bar chick at the Intersoup gave us free lighters and I’m looking at mine right now and it reads:

Doppelt so gut wie sex!

And I’m trying to translate it.  Maybe it means:

My doppelganger’s so cute I had sex with her!


The dope was so good I had six!


Don’t confuse gut with sex!  (see Fat Naked Smoking Man from Paris)

I don’t know. 

But I must say, not understanding can be quite fun.

Learning a new language is like being a kid again.  You start off mute, completely dependent on others, until you can say some basic words, one two, three, four, no, yes, please, with a weird accent that makes people giggle and think you’re cute.  Then you master those words.  Then you can say more complex things: Please may I have ketchup?  Then you move on to phrases.  Colloquial expressions. 

And that’s where the trouble starts.

Phrases are dangerous when you’re learning.  In France I really made some terrible blunders.  You just can’t say DEGEULASSE at a dinner party for example.  That’s the dangerous thing about phrases - you feel them before you understand them.  You hear them said in context and then, some way down the track you repeat them.  Usually, if you’re like me, before they’re ripe. 


Je me suis bourré la guele hier soir.

This means, I got smashed off my head last night, ie, drunk.  What it literally means is I stuffed my face.  But in Rabbit’s teenage-level French, what she heard, and consequently repeated around town, to plentiful curious looks was:

Je me suis fait bourré la guele hier soir.

Which means, I had my face stuffed last night.  Last night, phew! – I really had my face stuffed.  You can perhaps imagine what this conjures up in French.  It wasn’t cool. 

In this situation when I was growing up, Mum would give me a stern look and beckon with her finger,

“Come on Rabbit, upstairs, time for a little chat.”

And she would sit me on her bed and say,

“Now Rabbit, when two adults love each other…”

And I would want to cover my ears and scream and run. 

The two instances I remember most clearly of this were Poojabber and Crack a Fat.

I don’t know where Poojabber came from, perhaps it started with Punjab from Annie and evolved, but Bunny Sister and I picked it up somehow and would loudly call each other it in supermarkets, in the street, loudly, anywhere.

Hey Poojabber!

Shut up Poojabber.

Until Mum heard us and gave us the nod and the finger.  Up the stairs we went, red-faced and panicked.

“Now girls, you see, when two men love each other…”


Crack a Fat happened at the Tennis Club.  I was always trying to get in with the cool kids, the grade 6-ers, the ones with the Big Rackets.  I heard one big kid called Sarah use the expression Crack a Fat in a sentence (which in Aussie lingo means to get a hard-on) and I rapidly assimilated into my Bunny head to mean something like ‘to Crack the Shits’ (in Aussie lingo, to get upset) and repeated it later that night to Mum:

“Well, I’d better go and do my homework.  Mrs Moore will Crack a Fat if I don’t.”

And the nod and the finger and the shudders and the lamp being lit beside the bed:

“You see Rabbit, a penis…”


It’s tough learning language, learning to communicate properly.  But if you can just manage to hold your bunny tongue until you completely understand something, rather than always wanting to be in with the Cool Kids, it’s probably better.  More boring perhaps.  But safer.