Reading about a relationship between an American writer and a Brazilian gemstone specialist makes me think of my wonderful and equally Brazilian friend M., as well as communication and understanding, two of my all time favorites.
M. and I met in the dark winter of 2005 when attending a Swedish course at Stockholms Folkuniversitet.
Our swedish skills at the time were labelled ”B-” . Consequently our first conversation was held in pretty fluent English, over reliably filtered and knallsweet coffee and buns. (For some reason you can drink liters of free filtered coffee in Sweden, while espresso comes at 3 Euros per very italian sip).
I am known for trying to merge gradually but completely with the language I am trying to conquer, which unmistakably results in long quiet periods of numb frustration.
Level B- was one of those.
Thank god there are the safe grounds of the English language, where everyone somehow can meet, greet, and ask for the way to the train station.
The more time I spend on these common grounds, the more interesting variations of english I adapt, from all over the world. Those grounds are forgiving, as noone claims or expects perfection. They are also highly fructuous, as foreign impulses continuously grow new spoken branches – to the point where real Brits can feel like the most awkward members of the group. Often even hardest to understand.
One of my darlings are recklessly translated expressions and idioms, revealing a cultures’ soul, in a language that just doesn’t fit.
When Swedes wonder if a place looks familiar, they ask ”Do you recognize yourself?”.
Just like M. expresses strong disagreement stating: ”That’s really not my beach.” And that’s then really the end of it. Needless to say, she is from Rio.
Telling my sister about the finished foundation of our house project, I added wisely: ”But never shout ”hello!” before you have crossed the river” (att inte ropa hej förrän man är över bäcken). Google translate thinks this means: ”Hey, do not cry until you are over the creek!”, but that is of course crap.
The reason we mostly and easily understand each others inventions is another favorite word of mine: KOPFKINO. The movie that instantly starts playing on our mental screen.
What always gets you, is what you hadn’t prepared for, states the author of my book, and her boyfriend confirms: ”Nobody sings till the fat lady sings”. He also says ”You shouldn’t count your eggs when they are still in the chickens ass”, and came up with the magical word ”smoothful”. Which then reminded me of M., of all our differences and deep understanding. And how much more alive this is than perfection.
PS: ”Have a screw loose” and ”Playing with fire” are some fine examples for idioms that are exactly the same across all my languages.