A Japanese exchange student lived with us for almost a year, and attended the local secondary school.
There he met students whose families had immigrated to Canada from many different countries… cultures and languages he probably would have not met at his school in Japan.
The exchange sponsors also provided the opportunity to meet other exchange students from around the world.
His hobby, we discovered, was to collect the phrase I love you in as many languages as possible. Needless to say, his naive enthusiasm for the project and his lack of mastery in any language beyond Japanese could only lead to trouble. Fortunately he asked once for help in pronunciation… he was trying to memorize the list. He could not believe that anyone would be so mean as to write such rude and obscene expressions on his list!
To-day’s article in delancy place reminded me of this! Delancy place, which I found through Arts and Letters Daily, arrives in my email every morning with an excerpt from a non-fiction book. This one grabbed my attention… and it may interest you as well… from a book entitled Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality. It sounds really boring and eccentric, and besides, how could any one really know?
I actually don’t care whether humans are more or less sexually active than the infamous bonobo, but the last three paragraphs deal with the impact of sexual obsession on our everyday language… “Though many strive to hide their human libidinousness from themselves and each other, being a force of nature, it breaks through”… in our language! We use words like rock and roll, funky, boogie, jazz without any self-censorship or sense of embarrassment. If you want to know the connection to the picture of Ed Sullivan with Elvis Presley, you are going to have to follow the link to delanceyplace.com 9/21/12 – obsessing about sex
Not knowing… or allegedly not knowing… the actual meaning of a phrase has just landed a baseball player for the Toronto Blue Jays in significant trouble.
Yunel Escobar took the field on Saturday with a gay slur printed in Spanish on his eye black. The “tu ere maricon” (sic) can be translated to “you are a faggot”. The term can be interpreted a few different ways though none of them are acceptable. “It is derogatory, but it’s not necessarily homophobic,” explained a professor of Spanish at the University of Toronto. Nevertheless he was suspended for three games, fined $90,000 (which is going to a local gay organization), forced to apologize, and sent to a sensitivity training course!
One of the nuns at the convent school I attended for grades nine and ten caught us hammering out body and soul on the battered and out of tune upright in the hall. This wonderful old song (1930) , was usually the first and often the only tune a non-player could “play”, rendering a monstrous caricature of anything remotely similar to the real song. (The only other song we knew was chopsticks.) Sister was outraged, and she certainly let us know it! The song was scandalous, blasphemous, a clear sign of our moral decadence and disrespect for spiritual values. I love you, body and soul could only be uttered in prayer. It was also a great sin when lovers whispered I adore you. With difficulty we kept a straight face through this tongue lashing… her sincere indignation was too authentic to ignore. Body and soul was already a favourite played on basement rec room pianos, and no one stopped playing it there, but we never again sullied the hallowed halls by playing it at school. Listen to it played by a real pianist here:
Rock and roll, boogie, jazz, funky… excuse me while I go clean my teeth with a bar of soap!