To the sick bastards at the World's Biggest Bookstore who decided that the feminine hygiene product disposal bin (say that five times fast) in the handicapped stall should be operated via foot pedal: I salute you.
I have a problem with spoonerisms.
A spoonerism is an error in speech where bits of words are transposed, most commonly the first syllable of each word in a pair. It can also be a deliberate play on words (a personal favourite of mine is "fustercluck") but my indulgence is usually by accident.
Diction has always been a weakness of mine and in the last few years, the difficulty has only become more evident. it's partly due to a lack of practise in speaking, which exacerbates the prime problem -- I tend to already be considering my next thought or sentence while I am still expressing the first.
Mostly, the mistakes embarrass me; I have the strident belief that I am the epitome of erudition and eloquence, but the evidence for that rests only inside my head. Sometimes I forget that there's a distinct disconnection between what I think in my mind and what I present to others. My trips of the tongue remind me of it.
Sometimes, they end up in another linguistic oddity -- portmonteaux. The other day, I was talking about the pleasure of elegantly shedding one's coat -- setting back the shoulders and then sliding the coat off the arms in one fluid motion. (I noted, satin-lined coats do this with the greatest satisfaction.)
Sadly, there are times when this doesn't happen so smoothly, and one is condemned, probably in more impressive company than one wants, to wriggle. In other words, to "shruggle" -- describing the action that is both a "shrug" and a "struggle."
Last week, my parents had me speak to my grandmother on the phone. It was awkward in several ways -- I only knew her from one visit my entire life, which was a decade ago; I'm already socially awkward by nature; and I don't speak Cantonese very well. Still, though I fumbled through a few phrases, even I could admit my patchwork attempt was not too bad by any standard.
As my parents drove me home, I told them this story:
Once, I answered the door to find a young man who turned out to be a Christian missionary. I had no interest, but having always been terrible at turning away solicitors, for some reason I wanted to reinvent the wheel instead of simply saying "no thank you" and spent a moment trying to think up some nicety. He took my blank stare to mean something else.
"Do you speak Cantonese?" he asked.
Instinctively, I nodded. Because, well, technically, yes, I did.
Then he began talking.
I'm not sure if he noticed, but another instinct, I hope, helped me hide my dismayed expression. His Cantonese, even to me, was completely unrecognizable, garbled; I could not understand a word he was saying. After taking a second to note that I actually felt a bit impressed, I quickly clarified that I indeed spoke perfect English and that I had thought Cantonese would make him feel more uncomfortable, and finally bid him a swift farewell. My parents were laughing.
I admitted to them that ever since that incident, I had been very self-conscious about my own Cantonese, thinking that I must sound incomprehensible to others. They laughed again and said that even if my "jook-sing" status was readily apparent, I was perfectly understandable.
I thought of this because it was this fear, above others, that always made me demur from speaking to people -- including my grandparents. I confessed to my parents that I was ashamed that I had to pause and think so much, that I didn't want my silences to come off as unhappiness to find myself speaking to my elderly grandmother. They assured me she did not think that.
I'm just remembering now how that same evening, my mother had asked me a question about English vocabulary, and how frustrated I became when she refused to give me any context. My father made an unfortunate attempt to smooth things over by saying that her question was too difficult for me to answer. We ended up arguing and she accused me of having a short temper while I accused both of them of always treating me like I'm stupid when I'm really trying to give them the best of my knowledge.
I've always seen our differences in language as a barrier that separates, rather than something we share ... but clearly we have the same difficulties, even if not in the same language. I guess we do have more in common than I've believed.
The persistent rhetoric is that it's surprise all around that Canadians had this pride in them, that this country is normally so humble, that aw, shucks, it's usually the Americans who are the chest-thumpers, not shy ol' us (pun intended).
Everyone is so deeply sold on this idea that we're modest, we're humble, but the truth is that we're really neither. I certainly haven't seen it; isn't there a rule that when you call yourself humble, you're automatically not?
The reason we've broken out and shouted so loud is because we have finally achieved something solidly and decisively worthy of celebration. Never before have we won so clearly: For the Winter Games, we won the most golds at a single Games in Canadian history, most overall medals at a single Games in Canadian history, and the first gold on Canadian soil at any Games, Winter or Summer, ever, and most golds ever by any Winter host, full stop.
(And we won hockey.)
We accomplished a lot not only by our own standards, but by others, shared by all. We haven't had to redraw or downscale any boundaries to find our wins and victories. We just did it.
So I, for one, am not surprised. We've always had the pride, the noise, this collective shout. We were just waiting for a legitimate excuse to let it out.
You rode by on your bike and when the music began, I looked up, thinking somebody had put on a CD in their car, with the window rolled. But it was you -- you were playing your accordion. It was a pretty tune and almost made me smile; I didn't, well, because I don't, not at strangers.
You had dark hair, a knit hat, and of course, your accordion. I was the girl who wanted to smile at you, and probably the only one who didn't that day.
Just one more thing ... what were you playing?
I've finally discovered my "type": funny, bearded, bespectacled men with young children and beautiful wives whom they undoubtedly love very much.
[crumpling paper] Back to the drawing board.
I would like to believe in the special Hell for people who talk ... and text ... and email ... at the theatre, because on Saturday night, there were some who deserved a one-way ticket -- including you, BB Lady, checking your email for ten freakin' minutes, then leaving it in your hand like some kind of sick security blanket with its FLASHING GREEN LIGHT IN MY EYE ARGH
Not to fucking mention the lady above us who chatted on her phone for so long that my boyfriend had to spin around and ask her to please stop talking. Her clever strategy was not to hear him and continue talking. Later, she had to get something from her plastic shopping bag. I knew, because she rustled it for a good five minutes that a normal cellophane candy wrapper would not need. I hope to God for her sake it was some kind of lifesaving medicine she had misplaced and she was fucking silently asphyxiating from the lack of oxygen that justified her noisy interlude.
And not to fucking mention the man at the right who talked so loudly on his phone that I thought he was only a seat away; turned out he was about half a dozen bodies away. When I craned my neck to look at him, the six people between us had already beat me to it.
I am swearing to myself to write again.
2. As "Americana" defines itself as artefacts of American culture, "Gloriana" consists of the artefacts of my culture.
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