Second languages.

I don’t want to brag or anything, but my Russian studies, as haphazard as they are, are making progress. It’s a scary language, but there’s a logic to it, and it has a puzzle-like structure that is slowly revealing itself. I can read and write fairly well, but speaking, as usual, fails me. Reading and writing require puzzle-solving at whatever speed you’re most comfortable with. Speaking is a speed date with a Rubik’s cube.

A while ago, I was walking with a friend through a downtown festival. One of the musical acts was speaking from the stage in Spanish. Spanish-from-Spain Spanish, as opposed to the Mexican/South American variety, which is more often heard around these parts. My friend is Brazilian, and commented on how beautiful Iberian Spanish is to the ear. I replied that of all the tongues I’ve heard, it is the one that most sounds like blablablablablabla to me. I can pick out a word here and there, if they speak slowly. Penelope Cruz’ Oscar speech? I hear “todos” and “España.” That’s it.

My bilingual friends say Mexican Spanish was invented so that native English speakers can have a hope of finding a doctor in Madrid someday. It’s a slow-moving bus, the equivalent of English in the Deep South: Waaaahll, I reckon… Etc.

But even Spanish is a walk in the Latinate park compared to Arabic, or so I’m told. I read an analogy once not long after 9/11: Hebrew is the Mediterranean, Arabic is the Pacific. You can spend your whole life exploring that one, and not find every cove and harbor.

Kate’s Spanish studies begin in earnest next year. I’m not expecting another 4.0. But I hope someday she can have a chat with Penelope Cruz.

All of which is my way of saying that if you’ve managed to learn a second language — learn as an adult, that is, before after the magic window of childhood brain malleability has closed — my shlyapa is off to you. And I hope that if Russian spies ever move in next door, and you ask where they’re from, and they reply, “Belgium,” you will know they’re lying. (Good lord, people, Russian accents have been lampooned in this country since before Boris met Natasha. Get a clue.)

I’m working long hours this week at my other job, covering for vacations, so I’m looking to minimize my keyboard time today. So let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

Michael Moore’s copyright theft finally gets the attention of someone besides me. Because it happened in Knoxville, hometown of the Ol’ Perfesser, it got a lot more attention than when I wrote about it. But you heard it here first.

By far the weirdest story I read on the health-care news farm last night was this:

In 2008, Dr. (Alexander) Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, took on a patient suffering from a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile. She was crippled by constant diarrhea, which had left her in a wheelchair wearing diapers. Dr. Khoruts treated her with an assortment of antibiotics, but nothing could stop the bacteria. His patient was wasting away, losing 60 pounds over the course of eight months. “She was just dwindling down the drain, and she probably would have died,” Dr. Khoruts said.

Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.

Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since.

It sort of gives new meaning to the phrase “taking shit from you,” ain’a?

If you missed it, the NYT also caught up to the trailers-for-books trend.

Me, I’m off. As our own mild-mannered Jeff just said on Facebook, I have 10 pounds of Tuesday to fit in a five-pound bag.

Posted at 10:21 am in Current events |

61 responses to “Second languages.”

  1. Deborah said on July 13, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I’ve always wished I had learned a second language. As a kid in Miami in the 50s I was required to take Spanish in school. It didn’t stick. In high school I opted for Latin which I still find helpful from time to time. As I’ve said here before, I’m language impaired. I can barely speak english it seems.

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  2. nancy said on July 13, 2010 at 11:01 am

    I liked this passage from Frank Rich’s column on the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings last year:

    At least they didn’t refer to ”Maria Sotomayor” as had Mike Huckabee, whose sole knowledge of Latinos apparently derives from ”West Side Story.” But when Tom Coburn of Oklahoma merrily joked to Sotomayor that ”You’ll have lots of ‘splainin’ to do,” it clearly didn’t occur to him that such mindless condescension helps explain why the fastest-growing demographic group in the nation is bolting his party.

    Coburn wouldn’t know that behind the fictional caricature Ricky Ricardo was the innovative and brilliant Cuban-American show-business mogul Desi Arnaz. As Lucie Arnaz, his and Lucille Ball’s daughter, told me last week, it always seemed unfair to her that those laughing at her father’s English usually lacked his fluency in two languages.

    Yes, exactly.

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  3. paddyo' said on July 13, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Hey, don’t you mean “AFTER the magic window of child­hood brain mal­leabil­ity has closed”? ‘Cause that’s my great lament: Trying to learn a simple non-English tongue like Spanish long after school daze . . .

    I had a year of Spanish in high school and actually retained a fair amount of vocab; but I didn’t try to embrace it again until middle age, during a semester’s sabbatical (that would be during the grand last spurt of enlightened newspaper spending, about a decade ago). It wasn’t immersion, but it was every weekday for two hours. Even then, my late 40-something brain did OK with the read-and-write, but I choked on the speaking parts.

    I, too, opted for Latin in high school — although “opt” isn’t quite accurate. As I was in a Roman Catholic seminary (yes, they took us young back then), Latin was required. A GREAT language for understanding English, BTW. I’m sure it made me a better writer.

    But I rue the lost opportunity growing up in the east-of-L.A. suburb of Azusa (“everything from A to Z in the USA!”), where I attending a Catholic parochial school a block or two from the local Mexican-American barrio. My class was probably 50-50 Anglo and Latino (though nobody knew the difference). Would’ve been the BEST time for all of us gringo chicos y chicas to really learn Espanol alongside our Mexican hermanos y hermanas. Alas, the Benedictine nuns and Irish priests apparently weren’t interested. I guess it was the times — early ’60s — and who-needs-to-know-another-language-when-America-is-the-greatest?!

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  4. Julie Robinson said on July 13, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Total immersion works well to learn a language, too. My sister spent a month at language school and then a year in a Guatemalan village where no one spoke English. She picked it up pretty fast because she had to. We visited her, and when she talked in her sleep, it was in Spanish. That was bizarre.

    Of everything our daughter did in seminary, Greek and Hebrew were the hardest for her. Hebrew reads right to left, and uses no written vowels; you have to take a learned guess from context and case.

    BTW, she is now doing her CPE, or chaplaincy training, at the Evanston hospital, where she reports that she really enjoys leading discussions on the pysch ward. It’s her favorite place in the hospital; she feels right at home. We all had a good laugh over what that implied.

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  5. alex said on July 13, 2010 at 11:52 am

    C diff cured by booty cooties? So is Eli Lilly filing a patent on people poop?

    I took Latin in high school and it’s everything paddyo’ says and more. It opened my eyes to the fact that the ancients were more advanced in some ways than the moderns and that the U.S.A. wasn’t the birthplace of civilization as was being implied by the crapola textbooks being used in secondary education in those days.

    Later I had French in both high school and college, but never became a fluent speaker. I wanted to pursue Hungarian because it is spoken by members of my family, but it’s such a weird tongue that unless you learn it as your first language you might as well not even bother.

    On edit: Julie, my dad told me that once he began dreaming in English instead of Hungarian he knew he was a full-fledged English speaker.

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  6. LAMary said on July 13, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I had four years of Latin too. Hmmm. A coincidence? I think not.
    I learned some Dutch but never get to use it so it’s rapidly disappearing. I could determine that Russian neighbor isn’t Belgian, though. I can spot a Flem or Walloon at ten paces.

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  7. Jeff Borden said on July 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    One of my best friends, born and bred in New Jersey, has lived and worked in Germany and Austria for more than 20 years. He married a native Berliner and has a young son. His wife speaks German to the child while my pal speaks English to him.

    He’s mentioned that these days, when he dreams, he dreams in German.

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 13, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Two years of Latin in high school, tested out of a year for college so did one more year for the language requirement. Clearly there’s a Latin requirement, or at least a language one for NN.C residency.

    Julie, a fun thing to ask a creationist: So, how do you translate “tohu bohu” in Gen. 1:2? If they ain’t got an answer, you ain’t gotta debate it with them. Hebrew is a great corrective to obsessive literalism in Biblical interpretation.

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  9. Sue said on July 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    German and Spanish for me, but for the “Latin Requirement”, can I substitute my medical terminology class a lifetime ago? That would cover some Greek, too.
    MMJeff, you have to explain the tohu bohu thing.

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  10. 4dbirds said on July 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    C diff is nothing to laugh at. My daughter caught it in the hospital after she was hit by a car. It’s not too pleasant to clean up, contantly, after an immobile person with diar­rhea. Nurses disappear. 🙂

    My brother was a Russian linguist in the army, my two sons Arabic and French linguists. All went to Defense Language Institute in Monterey CA. I picked up German from living there on and off for 17 years and I studied a little Spanish and Russian in college but only remember the cuss words.

    Mark, I appreciate your response to my question from yesterday. I hear that quote a lot, about freedom and security and wondered what it meant to you. I hope you don’t think I was being flip when I asked.

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  11. Connie said on July 13, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    I think keeping the languages you studied has a lot to do with how much you really get to use and experience the language. Four HS and two college years of German were seriously reinforced by a summer exchange program in Germany. My grammar may not be very good, but I can still hold a conversation.

    Unlike my 3 semesters of college Russian which left me with little more than Dosvidanya tovarits. And since no one says comrade anymore any true Russian speaker will laugh at you if you say it. All those weeks of studying the cyrillic alphabet, and it is just gone.

    I did have a nightmare in German once. I was falling down an elevator shaft and couldn’t figure out whether to scream “Hilfen Sie mich” or “Hilfen Sie mir.” Ah, grammatik.

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  12. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Tohu bohu in Gen. 1:2: the earth was “without form, and void” (KJV) or “formless and empty” (NIV) or “a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness” (The Message) or “barren, with no form of life” (CEV) or “hath existed waste and void” (Young’s Literal Transl.) or “formless and empty” (HCSB) — or for Nancy: “была безвидна и пуста.”

    Anyhow, “tohu bohu” is one of those Hebrew constructs that have a tradition of translation wrapped around them, but as far as the intrinsic meaning of the phrase: no one knows. It could be an idiom for “heer theyr be dragons.”

    Martin Luther went with “Und die Erde war wüst und leer,” which says it about as well as anyone could.

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  13. Sue said on July 13, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    **Snort** I remember having a discussion with fellow German students in high school – “Hilf mich Rhonda” or “Hilf mir Rhonda”.
    As I said, a lifetime ago.

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  14. Dorothy said on July 13, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    My second language used to be Gregg shorthand and I can still write it if necessary, but I’m much slower than I was in my senior year of high school. It helps to write fast when you talk fast – your hand can keep up with your brain that way.

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  15. Jen said on July 13, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    I struggled through a year of Latin in college – my parents even paid for a tutor – and then had a horrible teacher for my third semester. I was going to fail the class, so I dropped it and picked up Spanish because I knew a little (very little!) from high school. I struggled through that (though I didn’t struggle as hard as I did with Latin) and got my language requirement for my degree. I also toyed with taking Hebrew, but decided against it considering I couldn’t get a good grasp on Latin. I love to read and write, but somehow my brain apparently isn’t wired to learn to read or write in any other language except English. I did, however, pick up a little bit of German when I was in Germany for 2 1/2 weeks in college. Nothing major, but I could at least get along OK, order off a menu, etc.

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  16. brian stouder said on July 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I did have a night­mare in Ger­man once. I was falling down an ele­va­tor shaft and couldn’t fig­ure out whether to scream “Hil­fen Sie mich” or “Hil­fen Sie mir.”

    So the NN.c question with regard to this nightmare is, are we (collectively) an example of falling into gemeinschaft or gesellschaft?

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  17. 4dbirds said on July 13, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Well if Dorothy can claim shorthand then I claim Morse Code. Da da di da, di da dit, di da, di di da da di dit, da di da.

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  18. brian stouder said on July 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I ankay barely speak urikan-‘may (but my mom can speak Italian fluently)

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  19. Sue said on July 13, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Ah, yes, just another day at NN.c, folks: we go from Russian, through Latin and Hebrew, to Morse Code in 17 steps. Linear thinking in its own twisted way.

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  20. Julie Robinson said on July 13, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Jeff tmmo, my favorite question for creationists is how to reconcile the two versions of creation in Genesis. (Genesis 1 is the 7 day version where male and female are created as the culmination of God’s work. Genesis 2, beginning with verse 5, is told in a different order, no days specified, and Eve is made from Adam’s rib.) Thinking about that too hard could just make their heads explode.

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  21. coozledad said on July 13, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I was just thinking it might be worth taking up German again after finding this photoset. They’re illustrations from Simplicius Simplicimus, a picaresque novel about the thirty year’s war from a guy who fought in it. There’s a contemporary English translation which has restored the bowdlerized chapters, but I’d really love to have a copy of this with these illustrations. They remind me of Rockwell Kent’s magazine covers, but better. Diabolical, I guess.

    Mickey the pixel has a lot of cool stuff out there.

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  22. ROgirl said on July 13, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    I studied French, and even when you’re saying “fuck you” to someone it sounds good. You can choose whether you want to use the familiar “tu” form or the formal “vous.”

    Familiar: va te faire foutre
    Formal: allez vous faire foutre

    Remember, it’s a reflexive verb.

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  23. nancy said on July 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    My favorite translation is the Blue Jeans Bible. Cover is blue denim, and Judas sells out Jesus for “30 dollars.”

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  24. Jeff Borden said on July 13, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Ah, but were they silver certificates or merely federal reserve notes?

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  25. Peter said on July 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Is that different from my Blue Denim Bible? I’m not being snotty; there were a lot of versions back then in the glory days.

    Studied German in HS, French at the Alliance Francaise, and semaphore at summer camp, so maybe with practice I can do Wuthering Heights.

    Cooz, that taking up German idea of yours might be gold – when the NeoNeoNazis take over in 2012 it might be good to know German so we can decipher messages from headquarters.

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  26. Dexter said on July 13, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I took Spanish and French in school like many of you, but never had opportunity to expand on my language skills. I have been to Mexico and Quebec, but could only communicate in the simplest terms.
    When I am in a large metropolitan area or an airport, at least I can identify German speech, as well as French or Spanish, but I can easily pick out Vietnamese. I was in Vietnam for quite a while and I was around a lot of Vietnamese people, and I love their tonal resonations to this day. I don’t hear it much anymore. One Vietnamese-heritage man I hear frequently on NBC Nightly News in Tom Troung, who I am guessing has parents who probably came to the USA circa 1975. He sounds like any native Texan, of course.
    German swear words

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  27. LAMary said on July 13, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Cooz, those illustrations are great. They look like Abner Dean combined with Hieronymus Bosch.

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  28. paddyo' said on July 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Sue @ 13: In my senior year in HS seminary, we were so jazzed by the release of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” that we figured out (with help/oversight from our Latin teacher, Fr. Felix) how to translate the refrain from “Come Together” into Latin. We sang it aloud, along with the record on somebody’s old record player:

    “Con-gre-GA-te! / Nunc et hic! / Super me . . .”

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 13, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Julie, don’t forget Job 38ff., Psalm 136, and of course John 1.

    Oh, and:

    Sanctum Peter Cottium
    Deus in re unium
    hippitus hoppitus reus Domine

    In suus via torreum
    Lepus en re sanctum
    hippitus hoppitus Deus Domine

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  30. Jeff Borden said on July 13, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    There’s a sign across from Wrigley Field on one of the rooftop bleacher clubs fronting on Sheffield that is written in Latin:


    I’ve had people tell me what they think it means, but all you Latin whizzes out there, please give me the definitive answer.

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  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Ha — that’d be “Go Cubs!”

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  32. Sue said on July 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    And of course there’s the motto of the Ankh-Morpork Night Watch, ‘Fabricati Diem, Pvnc’, which anyone who reads Terry Pratchett can tell you means ‘To Serve and Protect’.
    Edit: Dog Latin counts, right?

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  33. Dexter said on July 13, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    It’s too early for break time here, but this was so damned funny I am linking it . I mean, after reading about the 36 year old Waterford Twp, Michigan woman who just got shuffled off to the state pen for nine years minimum for having sex with her biological teen aged son, and reading where Kwame Kilpatrick just got a 19 felony book thrown at him, a little levity is needed.

    linked from The Freep:

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  34. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 13, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    Found on wikipedia — The Lakeview Baseball Club, which sits across Sheffield Avenue (right-field) from the stadium displays a sign that reads, “Eamus Catuli!” (roughly Latin for “Let’s Go Cubs!”—catuli translating to “whelps”, the nearest Latin equivalent), flanked by a counter indicating the Cubs’ long legacy of futility. The counter is labeled “AC,” for “Anno Catuli,” or “In the Year of the Cubs.” The first two digits indicate the number of years since the Cubs’ last division championship as of the end of the previous season (2008), the next two digits indicate the number of years since the Cubs’ last trip to the World Series (1945), and the last three digits indicate the number of years since their last World Series win (1908).

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  35. nancy said on July 13, 2010 at 2:52 pm

    This one got the local Babbitts all het up, Dexter:

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  36. Dexter said on July 13, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    nance: Titus Pullo would have loved that place, since all I ever saw him eat in “Rome” was bread. As long as they had some olive oil to dip into, of course.
    All those videos were just great.

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  37. alex said on July 13, 2010 at 3:22 pm


    The other verb for makin’ foutre is baiser.

    As in malbaisee, which is what Ann Coulter is.

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  38. Jeff Borden said on July 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Right on, Jeff tmmo.

    I’d had it explained to me once that it meant “Go Little Bears,” but only last week, during a tour of Wrigley Field for season ticketholders, did a guide note the use of the word “whelps.”

    The Lakeview Baseball Club had to build an extender onto its sign to hold the three digits once the Cubs passed the century mark of futility. The guide said they installed it the day after the season ended.

    Meanwhile, I learned that the famous manual scoreboard at Wrigley Field was designed to look like the stern of a boat. The Wrigley family, who owned the team when the scoreboard was erected in 1937, were a family of sailors. Also, there are red and green lights behind the scoreboard, to keep that nautical illusion going.

    Ironic, given how the Cubs ran aground after 1908 and have yet to sail back to the World Series.

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  39. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 13, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    My parents met on a first date to a football game at Wrigley Field, since my dad knew an Iowa (later Bears) player named Jeter who was playing against what I assume was Northwestern team (could have been Illinois) in 1957. She had a miserable time, cold and ignored, and swore never to go out with him again.

    They married 7 months later. My dad, ever the salesman, talked her into a second date which went much better, but it wasn’t to a football game.

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  40. Jeff Borden said on July 13, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    A bad day at Wrigley Field often beats a good day anywhere else, regardless of how well the Cubs are playing, which usually is not very well.

    I’m glad your mom gave the place a second chance, Jeff.

    It’s really the ultimate urban ballyard because it lets the cityscape in. Walls are low enough to see beyond to Sheffield and Waveland and from my seats on the second level you can glimpse the blue waters of Lake Michigan and the silver Red Line trains as they come and go from the Addison stop.

    The park needs a lot of work. It will be 100 years old in 2014. Luckily, the new owners are big-time Cubs fans and are committed to maintaining the current stadium. If they really undertake serious reconstruction, I wonder if the Cubs would play home games at U.S. Cellular Field a.k.a. Comiskey Park a.k.a. Sox Park on the South Side or maybe share Miller Park with the Brewers up in Milwaukee. What needs to be done cannot be accomplished in the offseason.

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  41. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    For the reconstruction year, the Cubs should play their home games as 16-inch no glove in Forest Park — might give them a chance to win a few more, especially with the underhand pitching.

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  42. brian stouder said on July 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    another fun German word – schadenfreude, as in:

    Boy, am I brimming with schadenfreude, now that we have learned that the geniuses at Apple will LIE and DISSEMBLE even better than Microsoft ever dared (on their blackest days!), when it comes to their buggy, subpar i-Phones!

    [channeling Dwight] Ahhhhhhh Hahahahahahahaha!!!

    [exit Dwight mode]

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  43. ROgirl said on July 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Alex, I remember a French instructor saying that a student tried to write “kiss my ass” in an essay, and she wrote “baisez mon ane.” Fuck my donkey, close enough.

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  44. Sue said on July 13, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    brian, that brings me to another fun word, as in:
    that information is just schadenfreudelicious!
    And MMJeff, I thought the “no glove” is understood and doesn’t need saying among the manly men of Chicago. Perhaps a better term would be “16-inch mangled hands”, as in ‘You guys up for a game of 16-inch mangled hands? I got beer.’

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  45. nancy said on July 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Attributed to Royko: “If you wear a glove, you might as well wear a bra.”

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  46. Bill White said on July 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    I read “trailers for books” and immediately thought, “Hmm… there’s enough room on the north side of the house to put in a doublewide trailer filled with bookshelves.”

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  47. Rana said on July 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Veteran of four years of high school Latin here – taught by a former priest who was rather new-agey woo in his approach to teaching. For all that, I don’t feel I had a good handle on that language as a language – it was more like cracking code, doing written translations of poetry and verse.

    It did make college Russian seem easy by comparison, and Spanish (which I have been teaching myself off and on for the last 15 years or so) easier still. I have a small knack for picking up enough to read and speak – but not to listen or write – for travel purposes. I did this with Japanese a few years ago – now, there’s a weird language – but most of it failed to stick after the trip.

    I have to say, though, that in terms of getting a language to stick, and stay stuck, Rosetta Stone is the most amazing thing. I really should get a commission from them, because I can’t stop talking it up. It really works well with my brain.

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  48. Rana said on July 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Bill – I love the idea of a trailer full of books! Reminds me of those books-on-wheels mobile mini-libraries that would come around the neighborhood when I was a kid.

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  49. MarkH said on July 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    ROgirl @43: THAT is priceless. I’m stealing it now and using it, in the right circles, of course.

    Borden @40: I’m with you on the beauty of urban ballparks. Forbes Field in Pittsburgh was great, didn’t have it near as much as Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, which is my all-time favorite. I guess that’s mostly from my memories as a kid watching games there in the ’60s. The smallest field in the majors at the time, it really gave you an up close feel to the play. My dad’s company had reserved seats behind the visitors’ dugout. Got to watch Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Gordy Coleman, Tony Perez, Pete Rose (in his 2nd year), Joe Nuxhall, who by then was already 36, oldest on the team. As I’ve said here before, Rockies Stadium reminds me so much of Crosley. I’m wearing my Reds hat around here with pride again because they’ve come back to kick ass this year and lead the central division. Oh, wait…the Phillies just swept them in four, so…maybe not. I hope my buddies in Cincy are wrong after all: lately when the Reds start out good, they lose steam after the All-Star game. I’m wearing the hat anyway.

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  50. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 13, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    So, the guy from the car ads who is announcing the lineups on Fox, was he doing this first? Who is he? Honestly, I had no idea. Just realized I’ve not watched an All-Star Game other than sneaked brief views on a b/w antenna tv out at camp since 1975.

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  51. Dexter said on July 13, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Royko loved his softball and played until he was an old man. He also loved to cook ribs and if I remember , was the instigator of the Grant park ribfest and the competitive nature of those fests. He left the Sun Times when Murdoch bought it, saying “No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper.”
    I am glad he did, because from about 1982 (can’t recall exactly) until his death, I read every word he wrote for da Trib.
    JB will remember how Shawon Dunston drove Royko nuts with his sporadic play at shortstop, and his monumental hitting slumps and strikeout jags.
    I loved those years of the Trib. Now Royko is long-dead, Bill Granger is in an old sailors’ home, and Bill Stokes is retired on a Wisconsin Lake. They all were great columnists.

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  52. beb said on July 13, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Old rules baseball is played every summer at Greenfield Village. It’s a lot of fun. I like how the pitcher is supposed to put the ball into play, not try to jam the ball past the batter the way the MBL plays.

    I had three years of Russian in High School and two years of German in college. Neither took. My fault. Just couldn’t get my head around a foreign language.

    You know, when the Gulf oil well erupted I wondered why they were using dispersants and not coagulants. Wouldn’t that make the oil easier to pick up? Seems I wasn’t the only one to think that. There’s video somewhere of a BP representative blowing off a rep from a peat moss firm. Peat Moss would soak up 4 times its weight in oil. That seems like a good idea. But the BP rep explained that they didn’t want to use peat moss because they couldn’t recover the oil from it. And apparently there are any number of substances that absorb oil. Polyurethane apparently absorbs 30x its weight and releases 95% of the oil when squeezed. That seems pretty effective. I wonder why BP or the federal government isn’t using it?

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  53. Deborah said on July 13, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Hair is an absorbent element that’s being used in mopping up the oil, kind of gross but when you think about all the hair that gets swept up off the floor at your hair stylist it makes sense to put it to good use. I don’t know about you but my hair absorbs oil big time. How would I know if it’s retrievable when squeezed out, but I don’t really care about that, as long as it soaks it up.

    The story I heard about using dispersants is that it made for fewer bad PR photos of birds covered in goo.

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  54. moe99 said on July 13, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    hair soaks up oil very well. I am donating my hair to since it all got shaved off this past weekend.

    I learned French quite well back in 78-79, when I lived in Belgium with a couple who didn’t speak English, and dated a medical student from Lebanon who also didn’t speak english. It was the latter more than the former that helped bigtime, although I suspect I speak French with a Belgian/Lebanese accent from time to time.

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  55. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 14, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Moe, you’ve got a real drill instructor look going on there! Of course, from a Marine, that’s a compliment. Apparently GEICO doesn’t think it would work as a therapist style, though.

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  56. Rana said on July 14, 2010 at 2:09 am

    That is one cute crewcut!

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  57. coozledad said on July 14, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Moe: You rock the crewcut.
    I’ve only been hesitant to get one because of bizarre pattern baldness. People might think I’m making some kind of statement.

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  58. alex said on July 14, 2010 at 9:38 am

    moe, one of my French teachers was Belgian and also Jewish and I learned from her for two years. The following teacher was amazed at the atypical accent I’d picked up.

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  59. Deborah said on July 14, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Moe, cute, cute. You and your daughter are two peas in a pod.

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  60. LAMary said on July 14, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Last week I was trying to fake my way through saying something in Afrikaans and I was told I spoke Afrikaans with a Dutch accent. I think it was a nice way of telling me to stop trying to fake speaking Afrikaans.

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  61. prospero said on July 14, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Isn’t Dr. Kho­ruts pretty much a genius, on a a small scale? How did the guy figure this out? My way of thinking, he was faced with human tragedy on a very small scale and he had the compassion and brains and ingenuity to get another human being relief from a condition that seemed to most people like some bad scatological Graham Chapman joke.

    My best friend I’ve ever had (and yes, that’s a childish construction), that I haven’t seen in way too long, was a comparative languages major at University of Vermont. She’s fluent in several Slavic languages, can translate Icelandic. Genius in Russian. She’s read The Master and Margarita in Russian on the bus while we were commuting in Boston, which made me very jealous. Her French, German, Spanish and Italian are good, and she’s so gorgeous she could probably get past guards with her somewhat limited Mandarin. I think ‘language aptitude’ is an intellectual situation akin to savantism.

    I’ve got a poco Spanish, a little Russian, en peu French, kleine German. Mainly because I can still read Latin and Greek from my Jesuit days in High School. I would love to master Spanish someday so I could prove conclusively and academically that Autumn of the Patriarch is better than One Hundred Years of Solitude (and both are brilliant, but nobody’s read the former and everybody claims to love the latter, and most of them haven’t read that either).

    Anyway, in the future, shouldn’t languageskills be something instantly commodified, by brain wave machines or Leo DiCaprio, or something? English has 250,000 working words, French maybe 40thou. Nuance is obviously everything.

    In Oriental languages, it’s tone, pitch and intonation. And what about utopian/utilitarian invented language schemes like Esperanto?

    Meantime, Good luck with all of that. I believe that language, languages in their endless abilities to please, appall, convince, cajole, bamboozle, campaign, defraud, exhort, console, connect, survive, but also express love, insight, compassion, wit, humor, need, depravity, duplicity, People understand, or fail, or refuse, to understand in their native languages seemingly at will, sometimes deliberately.

    It’s evidence of some Teilhardian idea that the universe is a cog in the machine of God creating God (in which I firmly believe). How did some African people get the click in their language? Y’all exercise it every day. Words cross over languages and France has a whole bureaucratic wing to keep people from saying “baseball” like it was French.

    English, actually American, and that vocabulary expands like the universe. Red Shift. Outward and accelerating. Einstein knows what comes not next, but inevitably.

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