The Occasional Joke

Nurse: Patient's name?

Centurion: Marcus Licinius Crassus

Nurse: And his date of birth?

Centurion: 115 BC.

Nurse: All right. And what is he here for?

Centurion: Cataphract surgery.

Friday, May 16, 2014

American slang for British Readers

Recently, in an article I can no longer find, there was yet another amusing piece in which an American was given a set of British slang terms and asked to guess what they meant. Although anyone who has seen any television since the 1970s would understand them, the author pretended not to and wrote crude and hipsterishly ironic mis-translations. This sort of off-hand journalism tends to obscure the very real differences between English and whatever it is we speak over here.  Consequently, here are some American words and phrases that may be useful for those traveling here from the mother country.

  • Mother country: way, way out in the boondocks, as in "Man, we're in one mother of a country now".
  • Boondocks: New Jersey.
  • Truck: (noun) a lorry; a large self-propelled wheeled vehicle used in the US to break up pavement. (verb) a silly walk.
  • Pickup truck:  a unit of measure equal to four sedans or nine buggers. Also a kind of motor vehicle owned by 99% of the US population.
  • Pickup basketball: a game played with an inflated ball, a parking lot, and pickup trucks.
  • Professional basketball: the last refuge of the scoundrel.
  • Bugger: a two-wheeled cart, intended to be drawn behind a bicycle.
  • Bugger off: a warning to a bicycle rider that his bugger has come loose.
  • Bugger you: An invitation to a ride in a bugger.
  • Sod off: As above, a warning to a landscape artisan that he has lost a quantity of grass and topsoil off the back of his truck.
  • Canada (US spelling: Canadia): A large North American country, characterized by snow and low self-esteem.
  • Ballocks: (noun) a) a neutered bull; b) an American actress. (verb) you don't want to know.
  • Bite me (US spelling: byte): a request for additional digital storage.
  • English: (noun) An Indo-European-derived language spoken in several underdeveloped nations. (adj) What the Queen is, as in "Don't you know the Queen's English?" "So's the King!"(1)
  • Castors up: broken, out of service; a reference to large devices such as tape drives, mainframes, and hybrid automobiles; such devices frequently have small, steerable wheels on the bottom. "My Prius went castors up."
  • Ford: (verb) to cross a stream or river by wading; (noun) a crack-smoking Mayor of a large city.
  • Minton: a common name for a pet; "Bad Minton! No biscuit!"

(1) The author is aware that there have been periods of British history during which there was a Queen but no King; further, he is aware of times in which the Queen was English and the King wasn't, viz., William of Orange, the Hanoverians, Lars the Norwegian, Joe the plumber, etc.  Byte me.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Those who cannot remember quagmires, etc.

News from the Pac Rim is discomforting lately.  It was interesting enough when only Japan and China were snapping at each other. Now China is annoying the Philipines as well. But even more concerning to those of us who remember the sixties and early seventies is the increasing tension between China and ... wait for it ... Vietnam.

This tiny People's Republic is once again threatened by the specter of foreign intervention.  A vast and intimidating economic powerhouse is menacing the free and democratic exercise of self-determination, carrying out secret plans to subvert, ah, something subvertable. A large faction within the Chinese government has decided that Vietnam represents a prime example of the so-called "Mahjong theory", a largely mythical historical process in which if one small Asian country is allowed to slip into capitalism, soon others will also fall victim, and before you know it, them damn round-eyes will be buildin' Pizza Huts in the forbidden city. 

Unnamed sources within the People's Liberation Army Navy (Yes, I know it sounds silly. That's what it's called) claim that US cruise ships in the Gulf of Tonkin have treacherously mocked their pre-owned Russian aircraft carrier without a declaration of mockage.  Chinese interests in the region are claimed to be in jeopardy. "Some of them have even been ON Jeopardy!" said a Government spokesman.  Most of Beijing was shut down this morning in order to allow a series of city-wide fire drills.(1)

The US State Department issued a rebuttal, denying Chinese claims that a new Ho Chi Min tunnel, reaching from Hanoi to Wasilla, was being used to smuggle arms, food supplies, and smart phones to the Vietnamese Army. (A resident of Wasilla told reporters that she couldn't even see Vietnam from her porch, particularly because there was a moose standing in the way.) Nevertheless, China went ahead with formation of a multinational force ("The Coalition of the Intimidated or Confused") to maintain peace in the region. It will include troops from China, North Korea, and China, and will be tasked with preventing insurgency and hooliganism in Vietnamese cities, including Hue, Kyoto, Manilla, and Sydney.

(1) All right, all right. That was insensitive. And not very new, either.  I'll put a letter of reprimand in my personnel file.