Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm too old for this nonsense

Well well well. 

Things sure have changed a lot since 1973. That's when this marvelous little volume was printed. The Berlitz Polish Phrase Book & Dictionary.

Phrase books like these are at once both less useful and more useful than you'd think.

I always imagined people buying one of these and, oh, doing a little studying on the plane. So upon arrival at Okęcie terminal in Warsaw,

they'd already be ready to ask a few questions, get some directions, order a plate of pierogis. You know, that kind of thing. Those irritating linguistic geniuses who can just flip through a phrasebook and then get along.

The reality is that these little books are almost impossible to use in a moment of dire need, and any dreams about a quick preparatory brush-up on a foreign language are exactly that. Wishful thinking. 

And the use of transliteration for pronunciation "help" is an utter horror. Especially for Polish phrases. Polish words are often long. But they're pronounced exactly as they look, according the the Polish rules of pronunciation. But when Polish is transliterated into English, the result is a nasty alphabet stew that becomes more confusing the longer you try to puzzle it out. 

So "I'm alone" in English becomes "Podróżuję samotnie" in Polish and then "po-droo-zhoo-ye sa-mot-nye" in transliteration. Ugh. Talk about going about a project the long way.

On the other hand, once you know some Polish, these very books actually do come in quite handy. Because then one can read thematically grouped sentences, learn new vocabulary, and see how the grammar works in action. I carry one of these around in my purse for the odd spare moment when I'm sitting in traffic or waiting at the coffee shop for a friend. 

The Berlitz version has grown a bit quaint with age. For example, under dating....

Awwww. "I'll call for you at eight." My goodness, such sweet charm!

And then, on the other hand, there's The Lonely Planet Polish Phrasebook, published in 2007. 

It has to have been mostly written by a guy. An obnoxious guy living in fantasyland.

Because in the section on Relationships, we get Sex first. 

Then Love

Then Problems

But of course!

I'm pretty sure I know what the problem is. But let's examine the issue more closely.

First we have the following:

Okay, so far so good. The pick-up lines aren't all that bad. I've heard worse. Like the handsome Princeton guy from Iraq who asked me during a university dance if I'd had a "noss opration". 

"A what?"

"Nose op-ray-shun. You know!" as he tapped his rather largish nose knowingly and smiled. 

Oh fer Pete's sake. Like I'm going to discuss my (lack of) cosmetic surgery on the first date. 
Get real.

Or another guy who asked me, winking, if I liked to ride horses. Wink. Wink wink. Wink.

Gah. You have to wonder how long he practiced that one in the mirror. 

Hmmm. The old "massage" gambit. I think we know where this might be going.

But maybe not! Directly after pick up lines, there's Local Talk. Local Talk? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought "I have a headache" worked all over the planet. Hmmm.

I think that one's world-wide, but maybe that's just my imagination.

Poor Ania. She probably has a flippin' headache because she can see the next steps all too clearly.

Trevor from Tunbridge Wells is trying to get a condom on with one hand, while reading slowly from the phrasebook in his other hand.

"Ania, my little tigress, ah, hang on... Damn, this is difficult to do one handed!"

At which point she can say: "It helps to have a sense of humour."

Or maybe just revert to local talk, and say "Leave me alone!"

Or even, "Put the little worm away, Pan Trevor. I'm outta here."


island1 said...

On the contrary, "I have a headache" is an invitation to discuss the probable diseases this is symptomatic of and exactly which pills, lotions, or syrups should be purchased immediately. This is pretty racy stuff in Poland.

expateek said...

Ooooo, I do see your point, misiu. And I can see you have must have a way with the ladies as well!

Ahh, the insights of the culturally-adapted. I have so much to learn...