la mantequilla está en la biblioteca

What do I do when I'm not coding? Lots of things, considering that I've been doing almost no coding lately. (All of this week's requests for code have been met with what can only be described as derisive giggling on my part.) Not sure why, but right now, when the brain stumbles onto the word code, I suddenly find myself with an immediate need to be in the living room, clipping recipes out of old Penzey's catalogs.

In other words, not a good sign for the code output.

So, sure, I've been doing the most anti-American activity I can think of: concentrating on language studies. Call me insane. (I'll wait for the chorus, and if you miss it this time, it'll come back around again, never fear.) I have this novel and un-American idea of being able to understand languages other than my mother tongue. Since someone was really nice and tossed a bit of fundage my way as some thanks for a tutorial and some code I'd written, I decided to put that money toward something non-code-related.

See, I had this bizarro idea. Call me overly constructive (it comes up in the chorus too; just be patient) but as the New Year approached, I started asking myself what goals I had for the rest of my life. Aside from realizing that I had a shameful lack of overall goals that didn't involve writing The Best American Novel Ever and Seeing The Entire World, I decided to think...smaller.

Language studies sounded appealing.

There are two great reasons for doing this.

One: despite what your neighbors say, your quest to See The Entire World will generally go much more smoothly if you can actually speak more than a few words of the language. There are few things worse than contracting a potentially-lethal case of Montezuma's Revenge and realizing that you don't know how to ask for a bathroom so that your colon can detonate in peace.

(Similarly, not knowing that the guy jabbering at you is saying "You ran over my sister you inconsiderate American capitalist pig! I am now going to slit your throat and take your Visa card as a trophy to be shown to my entire village!" It's always nice to have prior warning about one's death in a foreign country; makes it far easier to notify next of kin.)

Two: hauteur. See? I used it right there. Nothing says "I am a learned author with many important things to say" than someone who sprinkles their writing with completely unnecessary (albeit apropos) phrases. Their usage is twofold: to reinforce the author's already elevated self-esteem, and to intimidate the reader.

After all, if the author knows more words in more languages than you do, doesn't that imply that they are smarter than you and, therefore, their opinions should be held more highly than your own?

So, in the hopes of a) preventing my untimely death in some non-English-speaking nation (like America?) and b) impressing my future readers with my command of various languages, I decided to dive back into language studies.

Somewhere in this house is a list of languages I'd like to be at least partially conversant in. English is, of course, at the forefront. I suspect French may be a lost cause, as I seem to have this physical inability to pronounce more than four vowels or silent letters at one time. Spanish, just because there's that country to the south of me that's undoubtedly worth visiting. German because I've studied it for several years, still retain things here and there, and it would be silly to give up now after learning all that grammar.

I mean, they're just words, right? Sure, there's an art and a syntax and structure and all that rot, but surely I'm capable of at least learning how not to publicly humiliate myself. With that said, German and Spanish quickly landed at the top of my list. I desperately need a refresher course to regain any semblance of German competency, and I can't even say "I am a cheeseburger" in Spanish yet, so I've got a good way to go there.

Most people, when I mention that I'm starting up language studies - on my own, no less - have the standard "are you insane?" response.

Ooops, there comes the chorus again - "she's overly constructive and a little insane" - did you catch it this time?

Colter, however, proved once again why the quirks and quibbles of his personality still fascinate me after all these years. Given the statement "I'm picking up language studies again," only he would reply "La mantequilla esta en la biblioteca."

To which my only reply was the flapping of my dictionary's pages. Mantequilla? What the heck was 'mantequilla'?

Butter? The butter is in the library?

Can we point that chorus at Colter? I think he needs it more than I do.

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N'oubliez pas, la beurre est dans la biblioteque.

Oh, I am so there! I want to learn Japanese. See, I work in a kid's environment and they are all learning it from their anime fascinations. I think I will get started on that!

Está is spelled like that. Esta means this feminine object. Está is a form present indictive form of estar. Accents are very important, you know!

I don't think it un-American, Amy. After all, we are a nation of immigrants. Sure, there are xenophobes among us--especially proprietors of restaurants in North Carolina who decide that "freedom fries" will make 'em a quick buck--but hey, this country's fastest growing minority is Hispanic. If nothing else, you're learning it so you can talk to the Hispanic ricers about their trucks.

The most useful part of language study -- aside from, you know, actually being able to communicate with other people -- is learning curse words, which allows you to say filthy things while still sounding all learned.

Je parle un peu mais j'ai oublier beaucoup les mots. There are some kick butt online dictionaries. Also, most DVDs have a foreign language track. I should look for the French tracks (since that's the only language I learned in school). I should pick up Spanish - as many Spanish-speaking people as are in Atlanta now, it'll soon be Georgia's official second language.

Mi gato es una ensalada. (My cat is a salad.) That's all I remember from two years of spanish. Ninataka chakula. Ninataka lala. Cho? Asante sana! (I want food. I want sleep. Toilet? Thank you very much!) That's all I remember from 15 weeks of swahili, unfortunately, since we were in a part of Kenya where Borana was the primary language. I can still conjugate verbs and I remember a lot about the 17 genders of nouns tho. That's what happens when you have a *linguist* teach you how to speak a language... you get a little extra dose of theory. (I'd also like to highly object to the characterization of learning other languages as "anti-American". Perhaps a better phrase would be "anti-suburban".)

Also good for learning French is to watch hockey games on the French channel, but that would require either living in Canada or along the border, so I guess you're out of luck.

Brad: you could also subscribe to NHL Center Ice. I did catch a French-language Canadiens game ... damn if that wasn't a boatload of fun for a bit. ;) Thanks, John, for agreeing with me. :D

Well, to be fair to Amy, a couple of hours later (after I woke up) I realized that she was joking. I mean, I knew she was joking when I read it the first time, but that realization didn't penetrate my outer "I just woke up and am very grumpy" crust. It was just a shock to wake up and see one of the (few) things Peggy and I have in common (a love of linguistics / languages / wordplay / puns) being called anti-american. (I imagine it's the same feeling as waking up in the morning in the 50's as a movie star and reading the newspaper.) "Anti-suburban" is more accurate, but less cynical/funny. In fact, once I woke up and thought about it some more, I started making jokes in the same vein: "Of course learning stuff about foreign languages is un-american -- look at that pinko commie Chomsky! He started out as a linguist and just look at 'im now!" Of course, the problem is, my jokes aren't funny.

But maybe she was just poking fun in a serious way about freedom fries. Is it possible to meta-domesticat too much?

Oy Veyismer (but then even the goyem say that these days) The really crappy thing is that my excedingly jewish friend yells at me constantly, because most of my yiddish is excessivly vulgar and rude.

Correct me if I'm wrong, Amy, but I figured you meant something along the lines of "anti-arrogant-American-tourist." After studying my French phrase book and eventually realizing it would make better toilet paper than conversation in Paris, I learned to enjoy being an ignorant American tourist. Plus, Germany was the most English-friendly country we visited (counting England!). Spanish can be fun and useful, though. Living in Texas, we get tons of stations with the steamiest soaps and weirdest game shows. If it helps, Amy, I think the phrase you were looking for is "Soy un hamburguesa con queso."

hmmm Me gusto una hamburguesa con queso y large freedom fries! Por favor?

oh yeah -- dont' forget Latin.