Posts Tagged ‘slang’

A hurried, consonant-heavy language with no time for vowels, the newborn Czech Republic prudently decided to adopt its namesake language in 1993.  Pronounced “Czech me out” by clever tourists who somehow have never been tapped as poet laureate, Czech is the native tongue of some 13 million people worldwide.  With an Omega-level mutant ability to form entirely vowel-less sentences like “plch pln skvrn prch skrz drn prv zhlt čtvrt hrst zrn” (“a doormouse full of stains escaped through grass after first eating a quarter-handful of grain”), it’s surprising that the language hasn’t just given up on phonemes all together.  Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in the Czech Republic, the ninth country on my trip around the world.

 

1. Hello/Hi.      “Dobrý den/Ahoj.”      [DOH-bree dehn/ah-HOY]

This “hello” can be used when entering stores or approaching people on the streets.

2. Yes/No.     “Ano/Ne.”     [AH-no/neh]

A bi-syllabled “yes.” 

3. Do you speak English?     “Mluvíte anglicky?”     [MLOO-vee-te AHN-glee-skay?]

Don’t expect the locals to shoulder the entire burden.

4. Where is…?     “Kde je…?”     [kday yah…?]

Very useful in Prague, full as it is with fairytale winding cobblestone roads.

5. How much?      “Kolik to stojí?”      [ko-lick toh sto-yi?]

Cheap.  It’s cheap; no need to ask.

6. Delicious!      “Lahodný!”      [lah-hod-nee]

Czech food is emphasizes meaty meals, with pork the most likely meat on your plate.

7. Thank you.      “Děkuji.”      [dyeh-ku-yi]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

 

Notable customs:

  • Per capita, Czech people consume more beer than anyone else in the world, outclassing such luminaries as the Irish, the Germans, and John Belushi.
  • Czech and Slovak are mutually intelligible, to a similar extent that Spanish and Portuguese speakers can understand each other’s language.
  • Franz Kafka lived and wrote in Prague, but his stories aren’t exactly a reflection on the rest of the Czech literary tradition.

 

But if you wake up one morning and find yourself transformed into a giant insect, you might as well just run with it.

 

Honorable mentions:

I don’t understand.      “Nerozumín.”     [neh-ro-zou-meen]

Fetch! (inf., to a dog)     “Aport!”     [AH-port!]

Good dog! (inf., to a dog)     “Hodnej!”     [HOHD-nay!]

 

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The most common first language within the European Union, German is spoken by nearly 100,000,000 people.  Not limited to Germany alone, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg and tiny Liechtenstein all feature large contingents of German speakers and varying degrees of official state recognition.  With a hefty alphabet just foreign enough to throw umlauts over three–count ’em–THREE vowels, one can only imagine that they must have simply run out of elbow strength by the time their pen reached the letter ß, thereby saving it to be mispronounced in an entirely different manner.  Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in Germany, the eighth country on my trip around the world.

1. Hello.     “Hallo.”     [HAH-loh]

Dutch, German, English–all the same, save for a few scrambled letters.

2. Yes/No.     “Ja/Nein.”     [yah/nine]

Very similar to Dutch, nein?

3. Do you speak English?     “Sprechen Sie Englisch?”     [SRAHK-en zee ANG-lish?]

It works more often than you’d expect.

4. Where is…?     “Wo ist…?”     [voh ist…?]

Now wait a minute–this is just a poor man’s Dutch!

5. How much?     “Wie viel kostet das?”     [vee feel KOS-tet das?]

Uncanny, once again.

6. That tastes good!     “Das schmeckt gut!”     [dahs schmekt goot!]

German food is meaty; vegetarians need not learn this phrase.

7. Thank you.     “Danke.”     [DAHN-kuh]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

Notable customs:

  • Germans often tip by rounding up the bill, but rarely bill by rounding off the tip.
  • Don’t drink until a toast has been said, and stay away from Heineken, because PABST BLUE RIBBON!


 “Heineken?  Fuck that shit!  PABST BLUE RIBBON.”

Honorable mentions:

Bless you!     “Gesundheit!”     [geh-soond-hait!]

“A cataclysmic downfall or momentous, apocalpytic event!”   “Götterdämmerung!”   [goy-te-deh-me-rung!]

Happy Hanakah!      “Glücklicher Hanukkah!”      [GLOOK-leesh-er hah-na-kah!]

Dutch is most similar language to English spoken in the world today.  And it’s not all that difficult to pick up, since listening to a conversation in Dutch is like watching a news program anchored by a babbling baby: you feel like you should be able to understand what it’s saying, and it’s definitely enthusiastic about whatever it’s telling you about, but the words are just not quite there.  Not often described as the “Jan Brady” between German Marcia and English Cindy, the list of English words originating from Dutch is exceptionally long.  Words like “cruise.”  “Waffle.”  “Filibuster.”  “Santa Claus.”  All you really need to do to speak passing Dutch is to first fill your mouth with marbles and then just proceed in either English or German, whichever you know the least.  On a more practical level, since most people in the Netherlands do speak English (by stuffing marbles in their mouths and speaking German), there is very little reason at all to learn Dutch during a brief visit.  But fuck that.  Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in the Netherlands, the seventh country on my trip around the world.

 

1. Hello/ Hi.     “Hallo/Hoi.”     [HAH-loh/hoy]

Look at that, they’re like cousins!

2. Yes/No.     “Ja/Nee.”     [yah/nay]

The Dutch “ja” sometimes resembles the English “yeah,” if ever so slightly.

3. Do you speak English?     “Spreekt u Engels?”     [spraked oo ANG-uhls?]

The answer is very likely to be “ja.”

4. Where is…?     “Waar is…?”     [waar is…?]

How cute, it’s trying to be just like English!

5. How much?     “Hoeveel kost dit?”     [HOO-vale cost dit?]

Example: “Hoeveel kost marihuana?”

6. Delcious!     “Heerlijk!”     [HARE-lake]

Note: Not used after sex with a red light prostitute.

7. Thank you.     “Dank u wel.”     [dahnk-oo-vel]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

 

Notable customs:

  • Double Dutch is a popular children’s jumprope game.  Wasn’t that game fun as shit?  That was a fun game.
  • The phrase “going Dutch” refers to splitting a restaurant bill evenly among all diners in a party.  While a common practice in several Northern European countries, in the Middle East, paying for your own meal can sometimes be considered as an offensive rejection of your host’s hospitality.

 

The Flying Dutchman was a mythical seafaring vessel that was said to appear to doomed sailors.  It also appeared in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” captained by Bill Nighy.

 

Honorable mentions:

How much does one tulip cost?     “Hoeveel kost een tulp?”     [HOO-vale cost uhn tulp?]

I want to talk to a lawyer.     “Ik wil een advocaat spreken.”     [ick wil uhn AHD-voh-kaat SPRAY-kun]

Sorry.     “Sorry.”     [SOH-ree]

 

The stereotype that the French cannot speak English is only as true as the anglophones’ inability to speak passable French.  Offended for a millennium by butchered accents and the bewildering pronunciation of silent letters [protip: every letter in the French alphabet is silent], it’s no surprise that the most common lingua franca of France and England for the past 1000 years has been war.  France is the first country on my trip around the world with a relatively low proportion of English-speakers, and from this point on, I’ll be needing to rely on the local lingo to communicate effectively.   Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in France, the fifth country on my trip around the world.

 

1. Hello/Hi.     “Bonjour/Salut.”     [bon-zhoor/sa-lew.]

Be sure to greet a sales clerk upon entering a store (see Notable Customs).

2. Yes/No.     “Oui/Non.”     [wee/non.]

The subject of countless jokes during my more younger and more vulnerable years, an enthusiastic “oui oui” is still good for a laugh.

3. Do you speak English?     “Parlez-vous anglais?”     [par-ley-voo ong-gley?]

Try it.  Don’t be ashamed.  At least begin the conversation with this softball to lessen the blow on the Frenchman’s ears.

4. Where is…?     “Où est…?”     [oo es…?]

Ever-useful for directing oneself on the streets.

5. How much?    “C’est combien?”     [sey com-byun?]

Ask for the prices of food before ordering food, if possible.

6. Delcious!    Délicieux!”     [day-lee-shee-uh!]

If you’re eating French food, you might be pulling this one out a lot.

7. Thank you.    “Merci.”     [mair-see.]

You’ve just been helped and/or fed. Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized. If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, offer one to your new friend.

 

Notable customs:

  • When entering a store in France, it’s customary to greet the owner or attendant.  Many stores are considered a private space, so think of it as entering into someone’s home–a casual “Bonjour” to the sales clerk will likely score you a Good Citizenship Award, redeemable for one free Sizzling Entree at all participating Applebee’s restaurants. 

 

You are a paragon of compassion and stand as a beacon of humanity.  Enjoy your skillet fajitas.

 

Honorable mentions:

Where can I find gay nightclubs?      “Où son les boîtes gaies?”     [oo son ley bwat gey?]

Could you prepare a meal without cheese?     “Pouvez-vous préparer un repas sans fromage?”     [poo-vey-voo prey-pa-rey un re-pa son froh-mahzh?]

 

While Scotland is nominally an English-speaking country, it will occasionally feel more appropriate to make mental quotefingers and think of this northern half of the British Isles as an “English-speaking” region.  Fresh–and drunk–upon my arrival in Glasgow from Reykjavik, I had an exchange with an employee in a traditional Irish pub that initially left me scrambling to reply in Icelandic.  When I realized she was simply speaking English with a strong regional accent, I knew that I’d need some help with the local lingo.   Here are the seven phrases and words that will help me to survive and reproduce in Scotland, the second country on my trip around the world.

Don’t be this guy.  Keep reading.  

1.  Hello/ Hi.     “Hallo [incorrect: Lali-ho]/Awrite.”

Many Scots have a good sense of humor, so don’t fret a casual greeting.

2.  Yes/No.     “Aye/Nae.”

Alternatively, just nod your head. 

3.  Do you speak English?     “Dae ye speak Anglish?”

If you’re angling for a fight, the fish will nibble this hook.

4.  Where is…?     “Whaur is…?”

Example:  “Whaur is ma Pabst Blue Ribbon?”

5.  How much?     “Hau much?”

Example:  “Hau much is ma Pabst Blue Ribbon?”

6.  Delcious!     “A pure like it!”

I’ve never heard this personally, but “pure” looks to be a slang adverb of degree.

7.  Thank you.     “Thenk ye.”

You’ve just been helped and/or fed.  Congratulate your partner on becoming a bit more internationalized.  If you are carrying prize ribbons or certificates of achievement, give one to your new friend.

Notable customs:

  • Kilts, often associated with Scotland, originated in the wool designs worn by Highlanders in the 16th century.   This is in no way to be confused with the leather jacket of Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander, an Immortal possessing a healing factor and fluency in several extinct languages who, after being born in 1592, later starred in a popular 1990s television live-action drama.


He also had the ability to impregnate with his gaze.

Hono[u]rable mentions:

I need to practice my Scottish.   “A need tae practice ma Scottish.”

I don’t understand.   “A dinna kin.”