Monday, October 17, 2005

It must be stream of consciousness Monday

I discovered a blog that I love. It is called Snarkernacle. This guy follows all the LDS based blogs, some are really more of a web magazine, and pokes a bit of fun at them. It is all the things that I usually think, but don't say. He has comments on the contributors, the topics and some generally funny comments about other stuff. It is usually not personal or mean--but sometimes it is. He is like the John Stewart of LDS blogs. If you are going to put it out there, prepared to have it commented on. He doesn't appear to take himself too seriously. In fact, I think he even contributes to at least one of the sites. Plus, I love the word snark, I use it all the time with my kids.

Anyway, that is not the point, I had never even heard of most of the blogs and I had a great time reading them. I have to say that many of them seemed a bit holy and pretentious (one major exception is Various Stages of Mormonism--because you get all sides of one topic. I enjoy hearing what all sides have to say about it and It doesn't usually turn into a contest to see who knows the most or can pull the most obscure reference from the scriptures). I fully recognize that I am not the greatest authority on all things holy. All I know is that if I were any of my non member friends and ran across these, I would think that Mormons were a bunch of stuffy religious zealots that had really relaxed rules about how much time we were allowed to spend on the computer at work. Many of the people seem to be the kinds of people that drove me just a little bit crazy in school, the people that I liked but would cause a lot of eye rolling and would give me really great fodder for the stories I would tell my non member friends. To be fair, I actually ended up knowing at least one person at each site, between Stanford, Princeton, BYU and my mission. The people I know aren't all stuffy and pretentious. Mainly they are very smart, kind and capable people who DON'T drive me crazy so maybe the blogs just don't read true for me.

Wow, that wasn't the point either. This is where I was going.......One of the threads that I read was all about how this guy came home from his mission and kept wanting to use words in Spanish for English things (come on, we ALL knew this guy...the one who would pretend to not remember the word in English....I frequently forget words in English but it is because between the Diet Coke and my children I am running on fewer brain cells, not because I spoke another language for so long). His point was that there are some words that just cover it better in Spanish. Ironically, when I was at The BY (as Grandma Thora always called it) it was only the Spanish speakers that I ever heard do this. I never heard someone lamenting that a Finnish word or Russian phrase would cover so clearly what they were trying to say. There were at least 30 people in the comments that agreed and all contributed words that THEY liked better in Spanish. Again, just Spanish, not Japanese, Thai, French, etc. Maybe it is because there are far more Spanish speaking RM's then anyother language. Maybe Spanish really DOES work better for English then English. Who knows? All I know is that it if it doesn't work for Madonna, it isn't going to fly with anyone else. It is annoying.

I served in the very short lived British Sign Language British Isles Mission (we basically opened and closed it). I was already fluent in American Sign Languge. Signed languages are spatial, so they are very succinct. Instead of saying "go down the road, turn left, take a quick right and then up the stairs", you can communicate the same thing in ASL or BSL w/a few gestures.
There are many things in a visual language that you can communicate much easier then spoken language. There is usually no verbal equal to many of the phrases and idioms in ASL/BSL. It's been 10 years and there are still times when I am saying something and thinking "I know ONE sign that would cover what I am trying to say". At times, talking can be very tedious (and I should know because I talk, A LOT!!) It IS a real language with grammar rules and all the other things that spoken language have, you just use your face, your hands and space instead of vocal chords. It also isn't just subbing a sign for an English word. If you were to transliterate ASL or BSL into English, you would sound like Yoda. I just want to say for the record that even though there were MANY times I thought to myself, "I wish I could just sign this essay test" I never ACTUALLY tried to.

There was lots of cool slang in England, but most people know it: loo, chuffed, dodgy, git, nappy, tube, etc. It got interesting when we would have to try to translate the slang into the BSL slang equivalent. It was maddening. I lived in Bow, a section of London that still uses Cockney rhyming slang. I still remember it when I hear some words. People in this very small section of London use it all the time. For example--apples and pears is Cockney for stairs, trouble and strife is wife, dog and bone is phone, ruba dub dub is pub. Here is a phrase in Cockney...."I need to go up the apples and pears and use the dog and bone to ring my trouble and strife and tell her to meet me at the rub a dub dub". To make it even more complicated, they will often drop the last part of the rhyme--or the part that actually rhymes with the word that they are subbing it for. This is the same phrase used by someone who is speaking real Cockney--I'm going up the apples to get on the dog to ring the trouble and have her come 'round the rub.
Translate THAT!!!! I shudder to think about what the poor Deaf people actually got when they depended on me to translate for them. The Relief Society President in my ward in East London used various phrases all the time. No one really uses all of them all the time, but it was enough to be confusing. I also want to state here that I NEVER walked around the BYU campus using Cockney slang and "pretending" to forget the real words. Do you get where I am going with this?
I served in Scotland for several months too. That one was hard. They used lots of Gaelic slang up there but the slang was easy compared to the accent. I love the accent more then anything in the world, but some of the people are very hard to understand. If they would all just talk like Ewan McGregor or Sean Connery, we would have be fine. Sheesh. There was a Scottish elder in the London Mission I swore I would marry just to listen to him speak for the rest of my life. Of course there was also a Scottish elder in the London mission that accepted a bet for 5 quid to eat a bonnet pepper (one of the hottest peppers in the world). He did it and was sick for days. He also took 10 quid to drink the water in the old nasty plant pot that had been in the missionary flat forever. Again, sick for days. He would eat anything disgusting for money. Ahhhh, missionaries.

This post really has no point or even very good flow. I was just taking a walk down memory lane. I don't really think about my mission any more. It was fun to think about it for awhile. I am far enough removed from it to not really remember or care about the bad stuff and can just laugh about the good stuff. Also, that is where I met my husband. It was really nice to not have to talk or think about birth mothers, law suits, crazy people, cancer or favorite grandma's that have passed away. I needed that this week.


Kate said...

It's surprising how many things you swear you'll never forget from your mission and then do.

Just last week, I was reminded of a great story (that I told to Cyndi and Jay) about this giant pig that chased my companion and me to the car while we were on the res. That story is gold, yet I totally spaced it until that night.

The good people of Montana and Wyoming had their own brand of slang as well. I'll never forget one Sunday when this man came up to us and said "Hey sisters, when ya'll comin' grocery gettin'?" We kind of looked at him blankly until we realized he was inviting us over for a dinner appointment.

And I quickly learned in WY that an 'outfit' could be either a saddle, truck, trailer or an item of clothing.

Ahh...the memories!

Christy said...

As an RM from Mexico, and former Spanish teacher I must say that there are many times when I've thought that there are some better ways to say things in English using the literal Spanish translation. I was one of only 4 US sisters in my mission so I RARELY spoke English for the whole time. When I got home I did have a super hard time adjusting to speaking in English. It took me at least a month to remember how to pronounce telephone (I kept wanting to say teLEphone instead of TElephone). So, don't give us all that hard of a time! It really only took me a month to get back to "normal", I think. :)

Our Elders weren't so much into eating crazy things. They were pranksters. Silly boys.

Bek said...


I want to point out the subtle difference between really not knowing the word and just PRETENDING to now know. By the way, most of these RM's had been home for MONTHS. :-) It is just something that I noticed when I was snot nosed co-ed.

In England, the cadence is different. In America, we speak with a "down note" ending. If you were to chart our cadence, it would be going down hill. In England it is up hill. They end sentences with an "up" note. That was hard to readjust to. They also end with"are you going down town, yea?". :-) I do get it. I just think some people enjoyed it too much.

I have a new respect for you. Mexico,huh? I know they didn't send many American sisters there. I also know that no matter where you are, it is HARD. Good for you.

Azúcar said...

I do that pretending thing all the time. It makes me look important and cosmopolitan.

c jane said...

What are you saying? I love throw around my post mission french.
Il fait tres chaud!
Translation: It is so hot!
As in, it is so hot to speak french after the mission.
It totally impresses...

Christy said...

My only explanation is that those RM's that pretend, have to do something to impress the ladies! Poor guys.

My husband went to France (Paris 94-96) and he LOVES to pretend not to know how to say things in English. Well, he doesn't do it too much now but when I got home (6 months after he did) he was still doing it. What a dork. Good thing I love dorks, so it worked! :)

Bek said...


I caused such a stir.

Carina--you have native speaking parents (right, or am I totally confused). If you DID sub spanish words for English ones, you would be justified.

Court--I think that using your French post mission is great. It is wonderful to know another language, but again--I am pretty sure you don't walk around the grocery store saying "where is the fromage? Uhhmmm, I can't remember how to say it in English----oh, cheese." Right?

I also want everyone to know that I would KILL SOMEONE to know how to speak Spanish out here. Lulu is already taking Spanish classes and I am learning with her. It is such a handy language to know. Sigh. Jokes is on me!!!

cyndi k. wren said...

I never went on a mission, but I do have a 'lost in translation' story from when I lived in Holland. It was right about the time that Britny Spears got popular and the 'hit me baby, one more time' song was all over the radio and MTV. I lived in a flat with about 10 other nationalities and each one of them approached me at some time, asking me to explain why Brinty Spears wanted someone to hit her. Although I am surprised they asked since the Jerrry Springer show was on about 10 different stations all day long and most of my friends thought that was a pretty fair example of americans. They should know we americans just smack each other aroud all the time...

c jane said...

But Bek,
I never ask Ou est la fromage? because I don't eat it...remember?
Wink, Wink.

Bek said...

Ah bon! Je suis desole.

Azúcar said...

Yes, my mom is a native speaker. I'm glad to hear that I have your permission. Now, you have my permission to learn Spanish, and you must. We're the fourth, possibly third, largest Spanish speaking country in the world!

Unfortunately, it's been a few years since I've had occasion to really use mi espanol so it's getting rusty. My grammar has slipped to the same level as an eight-year-old's. I can still understand everything, I'm just dumbstruck when forced to answer.

Suzie Petunia said...

ALL RMs come back with that righteous lilt in their voice that they use during their homecoming talk. Haven't really notice it in the sisters - but I think it is a special missionary accent the elders pick up in the MTC. All of the sentences end on a higher pitch...kind of like they are asking a question rather than making a statement. I think it wears off after a while. Does this make sense to anyone? Have you noticed it? Am I crazy??

Bek said...

I hear you.

Carina--I AM learning Spanish. Of course, I am at the same level as my 5 year old, but we have all the posters up in the house w/ the colors and days of the week, etc. We are starting small. We have a babysitter that only speaks Spanish so it has become a necessity. I didn't mean to sound like I was giving you permission. I am starting to figure out that I am the only person that thinks this is annoying. Who knew?

Suzi--it is the General Authority lilt. When all you hear for months on end is GA talks, you start to try and talk like them. No?

cyndi k. wren said...

I'm actually with you bek, although the only time I really heard anyone "forgetting" english was in their homecoming talks. Don't they usually compose those beforehand? Wouldn't it clue them in at that point that the english word for 'righteous' or prayer has slipped their mind.
Sorry, I'm feeling a little snarky today!

wendysue said...

Bek, my StepDad served a mission in Scotland, then later was a mission pres. there. He has so many stories of their THICK accents. He and my mom also served a mission in England. One of the people they were re-activating (trying to at least) was a guy they knew as R.E. Bonner. Come to find out that his actual name was Harry Bonner, it was just that when he said it in his thick accent, it came out "Hi, I'm R.E. Bonner!"

That missionary "accent" drives me nuts!! When Matt returned from his mission, whenever he would start talking about something and get that missionary/General Authority voice going I would say "STOP! You're doing it again!!"

Christy said...

General Authorities have the Spirit. Missionaries are supposed to have the Spirit. The best way to get the Spirit? Mimic the voice! I think the reason this doesn't happen to the sister missionaries is that we know how funny the General *insert auxiliary here* Presidents sound when they speak at General Conference.

Azúcar said...

No, no Bek! I appreciate permissiveness in all forms. Really.

You know, to tell you the truth, sometimes I find it annoying and sometimes I don't. I think if you've spent the past two years deep inside a foreign language it can be very hard to pull yourself out of the language literally over night.

However, if you've been home for 5 years, don't pretend to forget the English. You may still pronounce things properly, but I don't believe for a second that you can't remember the English for 'Leche.' ¡Basta!

c jane said...

As it seems, this is a very, um... I can't remember the word in"chaud*" topic, -that of the returning missionary and his/her langual# problems.

*For the English translation please refer to my comment above.
#Is langual a word?

~j. said...

BSL? I thought I made that up. To me, it means Baseball Sign Language, when the guys touch, tap, scratch & wiggle themselves, etc., to send messages about their next top-secret ninja baseball move.

Bek said...

Oh, but it IS real. The beauty of it is that even though the spoken languages are similar, the signed ones are most certianly NOT. ASL is based on French Sign, BSL is an original language. The alphabet is two handed. Delighful. Irish (ISL) is different then Scottish which is vastly different then Welch....etc.

That is me, the master of obscure languages.

Azúcar said...

So when you're at Trader Joe's, do you sometimes sign the word for 'hummus' to the checker when she asks if you found everything you were looking for?

compulsive writer said...

I know this is blogs ago...but I just had to laugh. I've been home 18 years, but just got to spend 24 hours as a newly returned home sister's companion (long story) and it all came back to me. There are some expressions that are so much better in French than in English because the French are such masters of understatement. But my favorite phrases--not because I can't remember the English, but because they so aptly capture the sentiment--are franglais. My very favorite, and for absolutely no reason, is "quelle nightmare" from "You've Got Mail." The worst part about speaking French is having to endure the Americanized pronunciations of French words. Le Tour de FRANTS, LESS Miserables, etc. Oh well.

Stephen said...

First time I ever heard someone doing this was with French.

I still hear people using "gave him a raspberry" more often than "bronx cheer" (and a few other small bits of rhyming slang that have made it to America).

Interesting post, too bad the Snark isn't doing more humor these days. It seems to have outstripped its audience.