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David Vogel

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Member Since: Sep, 2008

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Have Passport, Will Insult
by David Vogel   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, September 29, 2008
Posted: Monday, September 29, 2008

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Vogel prepares for his impending Europe trip with an insult translation book. Originally published in the Hillsboro Free Press June 4, 2008.

I really should be packing right now. Instead, I’m looking up insults.

I feel I need to be a little bit more worried about getting my luggage put together right now than I really am. By this time next week my feet will be more-or-less firmly planted in this little city you might have heard of. Paris, to be exact.

Yes, the one in France.

All sarcasm aside, I have less than a week to plan what I’ll need and get my suitcase packed before I join 25 other students from Hillsboro High School for a nine-day, whirlwind tour of Paris, Germany and the Alps.

Yet, I feel eerily calm.

There are a lot of details I have to figure out yet.

I still need to check the weather so I know what clothes to pack.

I still need to get a debit card so that I can easily transfer my American dollars here in the states to Euros. (Last time I checked the exchange rage, one Euro is worth a used 2002 convertible Ford Mustang. Red, with black racing stripes, to be exact.)

I still need to relocate my passport, which I received in the mail last winter.

I still need to figure out just what exactly an electricity converter is, and how to use it.

Apparently Europe has these mutant electrical outlets that were installed by Martians (presumably the same ones who constructed Stonehenge). In order to use any electronics, the prongs to insert into outlet must be bent funny, or rounded, or crisscrossed, or made out of iridescent green shag carpet, or something.

I honestly don’t know. I bought an “International Converter Set” at Wal-Mart. It contains five different adapters for several different countries. But I have yet to figure out exactly what I’m supposed to do with them.

Maybe I’ll just put one on a chain around my neck, sort of as a good luck charm. Perhaps then I’ll get lucky and not find a need to use one for its actual purpose.

But instead of opening the packaging and reading the instruction—or checking the European forecast, or signing up for a debit card, or finding my passport among the stack or papers on the desk—I am reading “The Insult Dictionary.”

I’m not kidding.

It’s a paperback book that was published in 1967. Richard Cantwell gave it to me earlier this year. I don’t think he knew I was going to Europe, but I’m definitely going to take it along.

Inside, “The Insult Diction­ary” lists “hundreds of offensive words and phrases” that are then translated into five different languages.

In all reality, these might have been “offensive” back in the sixties, but by now they are “fairly insulting and mildly humorous” at best.

A very generic phrase that the book lists is “So what?”— which, in French, is “et alors?”

Hardly offensive, in my opinion.

But the dictionary does pick up a little speed. In fact, I have already found a couple phrases that I can use at foreign airports, should I get the chance.

“Das its zerbrechlich, Sie Trampeltier,” is what I can tell an employee at the airport in Munich, Germany, which is where we will be flying from on our way home. The translation is, “It’s fragile, you clumsy idiot.”

And on the plane ride to Paris, I might receive the opportunity to test out my French by saying, “T’es assez gros pour occuper deux praces, mais t’en a payé qu’une—bough’toi!” In English, this means, “You may be fat enough to fill two seats, but you have only paid for one. Move over!”

Of course, there is always an obvious need for, “Nehmen Sie Ihre widerliche Hand von meinem Hintern weg,” which is German for, “Get your slimy hands off my bottom.”

Our tour company has warned us that anyone involved in our tour—the tour guide, bus driver, hotel clerks, waiters, and gypsy children in the street—are going to expect tips. So it’s a good thing that I have learned to say, “Eh là ! C’est pas le pourboire ç a, c’est ma monnaie!”

To the French, I would be saying, “That’s not a tip, it’s my change.”

“The Insult Dictionary” is well-equipped for restaurants. For example, if I was politely asking a waiter in Paris to spill his soup on somebody else, I should just say, “Allez flanquer votre soupe sur quelqu’un d’autre, s’il vous plaî t!”

If I wanted to say, “Even my dog wouldn’t eat that,” in Germany I would just have to say, “Das wü rde nicht ‘mal mein Hund anrü hen.”

And the question, “Was this omelet made with pterodactyl eggs?” would translate into, “Dites-donc, c’est des œ ufs de plé siosaure qu’il y a dans cette omelette?” in France.

If the food is particularly bad, I could easily make my point by saying, “Bringen Sie die Leute, die hier essen, in Ihrem Privatkrankenhaus unter?” This is the German equivalent for asking if the restaurant runs its own hospital for its patrons.

Staying in several hotels will be another major occurrence on the trip. Thankfully, I’m covered.

For example, if I wanted to congratulate the hotel for having the largest fleas in Europe, I can tell them, “Fé licitations, vous avez les meilleures puces d’Europe!”

Of course, the most important thing about this European tour is interacting with the locals. This is crucial. And as you have probably guessed, I am well-prepared.

Case in point, “Sie haben eine elegante Art in der Nase zu bohren,” is German for, “What a genteel way you have of picking your nose.”

And if I wanted to scare somebody by jumping from behind some bushes and yelling “boo!” the German equivalent would be—you’d never guess it—“boo!”

French is a little different with, “Hou! Hou!”

All things considered, I think the most interesting thing I learned was how to say, should the occasion arise, “B.O.”

B.O. are the initials for an unpleasant bodily bi-product called body odor, which I can predict some Parisian women have, given the fact that they do not technically—if you get right to the bottom of it—shave their armpits.

At least, this is what I’ve heard.

Hopefully, the women in Germany shave theirs, because in German, “B.O.” is, “Schweissgeruch.”

The consonant-to-vowel ratio of this word is way too big, in my opinion.

But in France, “B.O.” is quite simple: there is no translation! The only way to communicate this particular point is to, according to my book, hold my nose between my “forefinger and thumb in a disdainful manner.”

Even though I may not be that well prepared for this trip, I know what I’m going to say. To me, this is the most important part of the whole trip. I feel that, to learn as much as I can about these countries, I need to be able to communicate with people.

Also, I’m giving up on this electricity conversion thing. I just opened the package to read the instructions and I still don’t get it. So, here’s what I have to say to the manufacturers: Hä ng’ Dich auf!

And I mean it.

Web Site: Hillsboro Free Press



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