Wednesday, October 10, 2007

F-Bombs at the Police Station

Ah, linguistics. I could talk about this whole language-learning stuff all day. Not only is Danish incredibly difficult to pronounce, but IT SOUNDS NOTHING LIKE IT LOOKS. Every other syllable sounds like a drunken slur, even when completely sober, and several of the letters are silent, just like in English. If you know what a guttural slur is, try doing that for a few moments, then throw in some glottal stops and swallowed Rs. There! Now you're talkin' Danish!

Despite my pronunciation woes, I find Danish quite interesting. It's a little bit German, a little bit Norwegian, a little bit country, a little bit rock & roll. Very Donny and Marie after countless pints of Carlsberg (which is pronounced "KAAHLZ-bug"). Another thing I've found fascinating is this whole idea of swearing. While a few friends have delighted in teaching us some of Denmark's nastier vocablulary offerings (one of which sounds EXACTLY like "pizza" to me, which can be dangerous in the wrong cafe), it's even more interesting how Danes view English swear words. They hear them all constantly from movies and television, and after any Sean Penn flick, f*** is a completely normal word -- functional yet casual, emotive yet general enough for everyday conversation. Therefore, we hear these sparkling gems absolutely everywhere, lest we forget the finer members of the English lexicon.

Case in point: A few weeks ago, I went to the police station to take care of some business as we await our permanent residency visas. I was at the counter, speaking to the kindest and most helpful officer posted at the "udledningenservis" ("foreigner/new immigrant service"). During our conversation, he asked where I was from, and the discussion went a little like this...

Me: "My husband and I are both from Seattle, but I grew up in Hawaii."

Officer: "Hawaii!! F***! That's a lovely place! Oh, sh**, how I would love to take my wife for our holiday there. Yes! It is f***ing beautiful, I hear!"

Me: "Uh. Yes, it is. Beautiful."

Officer: "Now, let's see... Hawaii is in the Atlantic Ocean, yes?"

Me: "No, the Pacific Ocean."

Officer: "F***!! Yes, of course! The Pacific."

Me (trying very hard not to look completely shocked as he shouts this across the whole police station) (whispering): "Yes, the Pacific."

Officer: "And Seattle is at the Atlantic?"

Me (cringing and whispering): "No. The Pacific, too."

Officer (slapping his forehead): "Ah, F***!!! The f***ing Pacific, as well! I need a map! F***!"

By this point, we're both laughing, but for totally different reasons. Mine was shock, his was geniality. He was so sweet that his peppery shout-outs were bizarre and hilarious at the same time. After our geography lesson, he told me that I must be a very good teacher because he could understand me so easily, and that maybe I ought to go his daughter's school and ask for a job as they need good teachers and I could probably teach the kids very well. I thanked him and thought about how fortunate for everyone that he was a police officer and not an elementary school English teacher.

I saw Officer Pottymouth again today, and I stopped just short of asking him how the f*** he was doing.

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