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Doe eens gewoon 18 January 2012

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Travelling.
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Sometimes, being a person speaking more than one language, makes you able to see its quirks from the outside. Once you speak a second language well (read: extremely well), you might even start using plays on words as humour. Sometimes, you’ll be able to make jokes that native speakers will never even have thought of, because they are too close to the language.

For example, in Norway, when you thank someone, and want to express extra gratitude, you say “Tusen takk”, meaning “Thousand thanks” or, in better English – “a thousand thank yous”.

Growing up with this saying, you might never question it, it’s what you and others always say. My dad, however, thought it was a funny quirk, and used to respond with “five hundred is enough”, completely baffling the speaker, who didn’t know what he referred to. This made for many an awkward “ddaaaaaa-aaad!” moment on my part, especially during my teenage years.

Interestingly, I do tend to say similar things myself; using the meaning of words to find humour in life. At least I crack myself up, despite no one else getting the joke, right? I am sure if I ever have kids, there will be lots of “mmuuuuu-uum! Gah!” (And not just due to my horrid sense of ‘humour’, I swear.)

I have made plays on words for as long as I can remember; I am obviously more of a chip off the old dad-block than I have been willing to admit.

Whenever I used to chuck a tantrum as a teenager, my mother would say “doe eens gewoon”, which is a Dutch term meaning “act normal”. In essence, “doe eens gewoon” means “chill out, stop making a mountain out of a mole heap, you are overreacting, you are being abnormal” all in one.

My usual response to this term used to be “dit IS gewoon!” (“this IS normal for me!”) and storm out. Not really a very rational response, but you know… teenagers.

Speaking a number of languages thus not only gives you an excellent opportunity to communicate with a much larger number of people in their native language, but it also makes you see those languages in relation to each other.

Languages fascinate me; how did “being normal” become such a lofty goal in the Netherlands? What does that say about the people there?

Or as my dad still says:

“Doe maar gewoon, dat is al gek genoeg.” (Just act normal, that is already weird enough).

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Excuse me? 14 May 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Life.
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3 comments

Today, while in a deep (albeit mundane) conversation with a friend, a Vietnamese colleague comes up to us and goes

“Sorry to interrupt.”

Me, assuming that this person wants to speak to either one of us, starts turning my head towards her, but seeing that I am mid sentence, I don’t make eye contact with her, and continue with my sentence to my friend, just to wrap the sentence up.

“SORRY TO INTERRUPT” she yells.

That certainly stopped me in my tracks and made me look at her (picture a stunned mullet here).

I am not entirely sure what happened. I think she has come to believe that in English, when you say “sorry to interrupt” you are in fact saying “I am interrupting now, please drop everything and give me your attention.”

Unfortunately, it worked, because I was so surprised. Yet another one of those trans-lingual moments that I keep finding myself in which I choose to believe are not meant to be rude, but which I am never entirely sure of.