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Sunday, February 3, 2013

I Know What You’re Saying…


“Maryna, baby, tell Pearl what “OMG” means.”

Maryna, a dark-eyed and sophisticated émigré from Kiev, a woman who delights in letting neither your glass nor your stomach go empty, turns to me.  “I know what it mean, “OMG”,” she says.  “It mean “wow”.”

Mike smiles.  We are in for the night, dedicated to an evening of drinking and storytelling in their basement.  The winter rages outside, and inside, I pull a blanket around my legs and lift my wine glass to my lips.

“Well,” I say, “it kinda does.”

Mike kisses her on the cheek.  “What about “TGIF”?”

She frowns at him.  She suspects, rightly, that he’s playing with her.  “It mean “weekend”.”  She tops off my glass of wine, our third bottle of the evening.  “I don’t care what you say,” she says, “I know it mean weekend.”

Language is a difficult thing.

At one time, I had hung around quite a large crowd of Russians; and through many nights and weekends, I had picked up snippets of language.

Or I thought I had.

 Maryna smiles at my Russian.  “Pearl,” she says, encouragingly.  “Mike, leesen to Pearl.  She speak very good Russian.”

“Di me pepilenska,” I say, holding out my hand.

Maryna laughs with delight.  “You ask for ashtray, yes?  Ees pepilnitsa.  Peh-pil-neet-sah.”

My mouth drops.  “Peh-pil-neet-sah? But I’ve been saying peh-pil-enska for years!”

“Yes, yes!” she says, laughing.  “And ees very cute.  Like baby.  Very cute.”  She takes a drink.  “Say more.”

I pat the couch next to me.  “Idi soodah.”

Maryna claps her hands.  “Very good.  Now what you theenk you say?”

“I said “sit here”.”

She shakes her head.  “It mean “come over here”.”

A memory slides into place, past the wine, and a thought occurs to me.  “How do you say “man”?”

“Man?  Ees muzcheena.”

“Mooz-cheen-ah?  Well what is “mah-cheen-ah” then?”

“Macheena?  Macheena is machine.”

I take a drink.  “I dated a man for a while, a Russian man.  I called him my big, handsome macheena.”

She laughs.  “You call heem beeg handsome machine!  I theenk he love that!” 

Maryna stands, heads for the stairs.  “I am going to keetchen,” she says.  “Maybe we eat a leetle.  I breeng down tray.”

“Spasibo,” I say to her. 

“No,” she says, smiling.  “Thank you.”

29 comments:

Geo. said...

Pearl, that was delightful. Spasibo (I think)!

joeh said...

Maryna twist the table around you. Eez very fun. No?
Yes it eez.

fmcgmccllc said...

I am so trilled to kinda in a weird way know someone speaks Russian. Are you sure that is how you spell Maryna? Cause I am kinda calling her marry nah.

Douglas said...

Maryna speaks better English than I do.

The Geezers said...

Very nice story. I'm also fascinated by the generational differences within our own language. My wife was describing a sightseeing experience at the cathedral at Chartres, and each time she mentioned the name of the town in her midwestern dialect, my young adult kids broke into smirking smiles.

It appears the phonetic rendition, "shart", has an entirely different meeting these days. They had to explain it to me.

ellen abbott said...

You in Russian. Me in Spanish.

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

language can get you in SO much trouble...even when you speak the same one.

Joanne Noragon said...

Warm blanket, warm wine, warm food, warm friends and language. Who can ask for more.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

Douglas's comment made me chuckle.

TexWisGirl said...

how cute. yup, i'm guessing 'big handsome machine' worked well. :)

jenny_o said...

The request to "say more" sounds eerily like the command to "be funny" :)

And Delores is SO right - at times it's hard to communicate even when you are speaking the same language!

bill lisleman said...

It's fun to stumble through another language. I think the other group appreciates the effort. What say you on the silly uproar over the VW superbowl ad? Apparently when Minnesotans drive VW's they start talking in Jamaican slang.

Mitchell is Moving said...

Such joy in language. I had an Italian friend who love to cook in the chicken. After a month of trying to teach her the difference between chicken and kitchen, I gave up. If she wanted to cook in the chicken, it was fine by me. She also loved satin shits.

Vapid Vixen said...

Maryna sounds absolutely charming. You're both good sports.

Chantel said...

When I lived in Guatemala and faithfully murdered spanish, I would mix up the word hombre (man) for hambre (hunger). So you can imagine the confusion when I was attempting to explain (when looking for a taco stand) essentially, "I have a man" instead of "I have hunger." The woman was all like, "Is he a good one? Do you need a new one?" Dude, embarrassing.

Murr Brewster said...

I love this. I thought I knew French, but screwed up an idiom in Paris when someone who was pursuing me (no really, I was a lot younger) kept asking me if I wanted more to eat, and I said, "No thanks, I'm full" rather than "I've eaten enough." As his back retreated into the night, a companion told me I'd said I was pregnant.

George Turnbull said...

I'm back!

Watch out for some scathing criticisms!

The Six-Fingered Monkey said...

How do you say brilliant in Russian? (Get it right, because I am referring to you). This will have me laughing all night.

Friko said...

Wine, food, a warm blanket, a gentle tease from a friend, lucky girl you are.

Friends always understand each other, no matter what language they speak.

Red said...

Limited language can be cause for much humor. Humorous !

Rosemary Nickerson said...

It's all in the translation.
Rosemary

Daisy said...

Very fun post! Made me smile. :-)

Juli said...

My mother in law speaks Portuguese and a little English. I try so hard to talk to her, and when I occasionally throw in a word or two she gets all excited. :)

Sad to think that when she's gone, there will be no reason to speak it anymore as she is the only reason Tony and his brother are still fluent.

Rose L said...

I wonder how many times you stuck your foot in your mouth! How do you say foot in Russian?

HermanTurnip said...

As I read this, why are visions of Rocky IV dancing through my head?

Indigo Roth said...

Hey Pearl! My forays into foreign language are just as comically oblivious. In fact, I'm told a character who resembles me is a fixture on a Swedish sitcom. He always misuses the subjunctive; they're crazy mofos, those Swedes. Roth x

Jo-Anne Meadows said...

Sometimes we think about how hard it is for us who speak english to understand a foreign language but how hard it is for those who do not speak english as a first language is often forgotten

Roshni AaMom said...

I'll be happy to teach you some hindi!! We'll start with some choice abuses though!! :P

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

I love your Maryna stories as much as your Mary stories. :)