Here are some signs from my trips to Moscow and Istanbul. See if you can decipher them! Some are way easy because of the font/colors/logo, but there are a few noodle-scratchers in there I bet.
For about the past five years, I’ve been pussyfooting around the idea of becoming a vegetarian. From an ethical, environmental, and health point of view, I think most of us could do with eating a lot less meat; however, my meat tooth has kept me from ever being able to completely let go.
Istanbul has got to be one of the most crowded and chaotic cities in Europe — 15 million people or so crammed into an area where the livable space is seriously constrained by water on all sides and some serious elevation changes. (I assume it is also one of the most crowded and chaotic cities in Asia, but I didn’t spend much time on the East Bank of the Bosphorus so I can’t judge.) I was amazed at how civil, good-natured, and downright friendly the people were — I’ve been around Parisians and Muscovites, and most of all Montrealers, and it is really no contest. This applies most of all to the family and friends of the lovely bride whose wedding was the reason for my visit — they were all very generous and worked hard to put on a first-class event that I enjoyed tremendously.
With this in mind, what follows will not be so kind to Turkey.
Upon alighting in an unfamiliar environment, it’s important to be able to tell your friends from your enemies. My first day in Moscow I made the following realization:
A word that some of you may be familiar with is Engrish — humorous mistranslations into English from East Asian languages. The word of course comes from the way speakers of such languages allegedly are not able to differentiate between /l/ and /r/ sounds. The following, from the menu of Kam Ho, a Chinese restaurant across the street from my office, got me wondering if there’s such a word for when this happens in French instead of English:
The English of course is problematic — corn source instead of corn sauce — but hardly worse than what you’d find at many a Chinese restaurant across North America. The French translation, however, tries for crème de maïs (cream of corn), but instead gives us crème de mains: hand cream. Needless to say, that makes for one unappetizing breaded fish filet.
So, what might one call such a linguistic transgression? One possibility is Flench, transposing l and r of French in the same way one forms Engrish. Nice and succinct, and kind of sounds like flense, one of my favourite words. Unfortunately, a quick trip to urbandictionary.com informs me that Flench can denote “the face one makes while passing gas” — a portmanteau of fart and clench. No matter, though — I’m claiming it here and let’s see which meaning wins out!
When I was a child, I would derisively refer to lentils as “sand pellets” – the exterior was like a hard plastic pod, and the interior was grainy like, well, sand. For that reason I had not bought or made them as an adult. However, I wasn’t done with them for good. You see, one of the perks of my current apartment is that it is full of foodstuffs that my friends Geoff and Kristina left me when they moved out.
The Bad: amorphous wad of beef that was long past its sell-by date before it was ever put into the freezer. One of those things that you have to chuck at the right time of the week lest it stink up your garbage.
The Good: Good old-fashioned Quebec maple syrup; more spices than I knew existed; a jar of duck fat; nine different bottles of vinegar; and many more.
And, yes, there were some green lentils. I was resigned to the idea that they belonged in the former category, but since they would have taken quite a while to go bad, I couldn’t justify throwing them out and begrudgingly set out to prepare them.
A friend once pointed out to me that in Canada, hockey is used to sell almost everything. The rest? Well, there’s this:
That’s Canada for you: selling real estate via curling. For those of you unfamiliar with the sport, it’s like shuffleboard on ice, where somehow it’s perfectly legal for your teammates to whip out brooms and sweep debris out of the way of your stone as needed. It’s the ideal “beer league” sport for middle-aged Canadians who are not quite fit enough for pick-up hockey during the 8 months per year that the weather is crap.
The caption says “faites d’une pierre deux coups…” which figuratively means “kill two birds with one stone”, but literally it’s more like “make two hits with one stone”, which works better in the context of a curling metaphor. I think one of those stones could take out a couple of ostriches.