Wednesday, October 4, 2017

It ain’t necessarily so

Tourists and translators often struggle with local linguistic idiosyncrasies. Words and meanings seem at odds with each other, leading to misinterpretation (and worse).  The United States, being a large country, has a few terms that might confuse the newcomer.

The California stop is not a stop, but a slowdown. Specifically, when approaching  stop sign where everything is clear, California drivers, and not only them, have a tendency to slow down but not necessarily come to complete stop (out of concern for gas economy, of course) as they approach the stop line. After checking that the way is clear, they continue. While not considered dangerous driving, such rolling approaches are nonetheless against the law, probably worldwide. California stops are most prevalent where the chance of being ticketed is much less than the effort of the going against the momentum of the car.

An Arizona snowbird does fly on a seasonal basis but not necessarily using its own wings. Arizona winters are extremely pleasant by east coast standards. The weather tends to be slightly warm, sunny and lack any snow or even ice cold wind. As a result, many retired New Yorkers and other east coasters have taken to wintering in the West to avoid the harsh winters. They are even magazines dedicated to such seasonal migrants, featuring ideal rental and purchase homes.  Winter over, they return to their permanent residences to enjoy the wonderful summer humidity, but that is another story.

It is nice to receive applause d but a Bronx cheer is not a good sign of affairs.  The difference between a regular and Bronx cheer is the preceding series of events. In the latter case, the players, athletes generally, have performed so poorly that the fans are almost shocked that the schnooks can do anything right.  For example, during a recent football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns played in Cleveland, the home team was doing awful, with one specific receiver dropping passes left and right.  When he finally managed to hold on to the ball, the audience cheered him. The message was not positive, i.e., that was a great play, but instead highly critical, i.e., that is what you are getting paid to do, idiot. Cleveland fans, although not from the Bronx, New York, know how to give a Bronx cheer.

There is an Israeli example of this, albeit rather dated. During the first two decades of Israel’s existence, goods were rationed to ensure that everybody had something to eat. In addition, imports were strictly limited to the necessary. Alas, everybody’s definition of necessary is a bit different. For Jews from Iran and Iraq, rice is a necessity, almost a religion. Yet, the government limited importation of rice. Instead, they sold wheat cut into the shape of rice, a bit like pilaf, known as ptitim in Hebrew. Its unofficial name was Ben Gurion rice, after the long serving, first prime minister of the country. Curiously, decades after the import rules have been dropped and rice is plentiful in the stores, many people still enjoy eating Ben Gurion rice.

So, as that song goes, when you hear locals speak and cannot believe your ears, remember that it ain’t necessarily what its sounds like.

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