Team work.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It's drafty in here!

It was stuffy in the classroom, so an American colleague asked if she could open a window.  No one seemed to mind as she opened the large window behind our desks.  She then made plain why she had asked.  'Swiss people complain if there's a draft.  Even if it's a tiny one you'll hear es zieht! es zieht!'  She said all of this while making a sour face and waving her hand around the back of her neck.  As I watched her I thought, funny, that's what people say about the Germans!  I also thought that it was a bit rude of her to say that ALL Swiss have an inherent problem with drafts.  I don't think I'd ever make such a sweeping generalization about a people and, if I were to, I should think I would be wise enough not to do so right in front of them.  The window-opener then left the class for a moment in order to make a phone call.  I asked Renate, a Swiss woman sitting across from me, if it were true what the other woman had said.  Renate shrugged and sagely said, 'I really think it depends on the individual.'  So the Swiss hate drafts, supposedly.  Apparently, people where I am from are all 'flakes'.  We say one thing, but do another.  You can't count on us Americans.  I've always bristled under this blanket of 'flakiness'.  Sure, some people make commitments they don't then keep, just as some people don't like a drafty room.  But we can't paint an entire people with the same brush, can we?

Two weeks ago, I attended a birthday party of another ex-pat.  There were folk from all over the globe in attendance.  The party language quickly became English and there were rousing talks about politics, healthcare and travel, among other usual ex-pat topics.  I brought up the subject of looking for work and how one should, in most cases, tailor one's CV according to the host culture.  My CV is currently in English and I asked the group if it would be better for me to 'germanize' it or just leave it as it is.  The position I am applying for would be for an English language native, so I thought perhaps leaving the CV in its original language made more sense.  An American acquaintance suggested that I translate my CV into German and offered to help me.  It must be said that I did not once solicit this person's expertize.  Not feeling too terribly confident with my own translating abilities, I accepted the offer of translation help.  A few days after the party I contacted this person and suggested we set a date to meet.  I also expressed heaps of gratitude and offers of booze, food, or what-not as 'payment' for this person's time.  A few more days went by and still there was no reply from this person.  I sent a follow-up 'hey, I sent you a mail' text.  Radio silence ensued and continues to be the norm.  Ah, well, I suppose I should not have actually believed that this person would help me because we Americans are 'total flakes'.  I hate it when a cultural stereotype proves to be true.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How we 'tawk'.

Wasting time on FB the other day yielded this beauty of an oversimplification regarding how people in California supposedly talk.  The snippet was written by someone from New York state who, I am assuming, now lives in CA. and, language-wise, it seems to be killing him.  {insert world's tiniest violin here}

Some guy called Dave said, '...isn’t it grand that NY pronunciation is the gold standard for American English. The CA speech patterns I’m subjected to daily show just how far a regional dialect can stray from the standard that we established. Californians pronounce “pen” as “pin”, they can’t hear the difference between “merry, marry, Mary”, their pronunciation of “coffee” makes the angels weep, etc, etc.'

My first thought after reading the above words was 'is this guy joking?'  My second thought was 'well, if he isn't then he can take a long walk off a short pier'.  My actual response, however, was a fair and balanced reply which I then deleted after the initial Facebook poster claimed there was a 'fight' happening on the thread.  I wasn't 'fighting' so much as defending, really. 

My response to the 'Noo Yawker' went something like this:  My mother, who hails from San Francisco, pronounces both 'pen' and 'penny' as 'pin' and 'pinny'; I do not.  So while I would venture to say that some Californians do substitute a short 'i' sound for a short 'e' sound when it comes to talking about writing implements and pocket change, many more do not.  Also, I very much do 'hear' the difference between 'marry, merry and Mary', but I don't speak the difference.  As regarding the dark brew, there is no 'w' in the word 'coffee', so what are we Californians doing wrong with respect to pronunciation?
Living in CH and primarily speaking in German, I notice that while some people correctly guess I am from No. America based on my slight American accent coming to the fore, others think I might be British.  I guess they didn't hear my 'CA speech patterns'.  Lucky them?  Poor Dave...maybe he should move out of California, so that he's no longer 'subjected' to the vagaries of  Californese.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Anti-Jerry Maguire

Carnations are pink
Tulips are yellow
What made you think
You had me at 'Hello'?

'I hear they're making a come back.'