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Seen in passing

Jenny Turner's piece on Doctor Who in the London Review of Books. Written partly as a review of Kim Newman's book. Very interesting.

Seen on Language Hat: Dear Abby on what happens when you assume that the foreigners can't speak your language:
My mother is from Germany, and I speak German. I vacationed there with my husband, two children, my mother and my in-laws. On the way home, my father-in-law and I went to the flight desk to check in. The woman behind the counter told us our plane had left two hours before! Then, in German, she said to her co-workers that we were stupid Americans, and she'd make us stay another night and take a flight the next day. I replied in German that we were not stupid, and we'd take a flight that day. Her jaw dropped, and her boss came over and ran with us to the next flight.

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
del_c
Jun. 23rd, 2006 12:46 pm (UTC)
The German made the mistake of thinking that the Americans could not speak German, when it was just that they would not. I can't imagine being fluent in German, spending a whole holiday there, and then, at the end of it, on the way back, while still in Germany, addressing a German, in her own country, in English.

Perhaps they were short of amusement, and thought they'd set her up.
aliceinfinland
Jun. 24th, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
I doubt it. People, any kind of people, often get addressed in English right off in service encounters in northern Europe if the clerk or whatever isn't 100% sure they're local. And it then feels rude to switch into their language, since that might imply that their English wasn't good enough, and anyway they may continue replying in English, implying that your command of their language isn't good enough.

I spent my first few years here pissed off because I couldn't get out of that loop and people wouldn't speak Finnish to me in ordinary transactions once they detected that I was foreign. It took a while for my accent to become convincing or at least authoritative. Most of us who spend years getting fluent in a foreign language will be delighted to use it if given the chance.
redfiona99
Jun. 23rd, 2006 02:49 pm (UTC)
My Dad used to get that in Austria a lot, because, although Austrian born and bred, he looked decidedly Slavic according to a lot of people, who would then talk down to him. He found it very annoying.
applez
Jun. 23rd, 2006 05:09 pm (UTC)
For my part - I maintain a largely negative view of Austria after a Viennese woman shooed me out of her Mozartkuegel shop when I was a youth...something about touching the glass.* Honestly, what else would they expect a 9 year old to do in a chocolate shop? Mad people, Austrians.

*After Prague, and being accompanied by my Asian mother, I was convinced then and now that it was nothing more than racism.
redfiona99
Jun. 23rd, 2006 05:51 pm (UTC)
I love Austria, but I'm pretty certain your conviction about it being nothing more than racism is entirely correct. I think I may have met that Viennese woman's heir in another shop because I got yelled at for looking at the clothes in it.
applez
Jun. 23rd, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
Well, I try hard not to tar all of Austria, even though I read articles about Haider, and suffer Austrian exports like Schwartzenegger. ;-)

Still, any country noisy enough to protest commonplace prisoner executions in California and anger their emigrant Governor is fine in my book.
applez
Jun. 23rd, 2006 05:06 pm (UTC)
What I find interesting is that Dear Abby chose to present several cases where the wronged person makes their statement, then leaves the business - perhaps in a huff. Of course, it is the prerogative of the individual, but it would be interesting to read a tale of someone who stuck around and kept up the transaction in the other language.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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