Hard to Say

by Marinka on July 4, 2014

I haven’t made my final summer vacation plans with the kids yet, and while that would throw most people into a panic, in my case it’s probably for the best. Because lately I’ve been thinking that maybe I should just go and be in the World Cup. This is certainly a surprising turn of events since I don’t play or particularly like soccer and/or football, but I tell you, I’ve recently developed a skill set that will make me a hot commodity in the whole World Cup business. Specifically in the goal-tending department. Because when you’re a goalie (as I will be; see, e.g., World Cup 2014 and thereafter), and there’s a penalty kick, you have to fucking guess where the ball is going to go and get there before it. And through a series of events, I’ve become pretty good at guessing. Or maybe not that good at it, but I’ve been guessing a lot lately. And I figure why not put those guessing skills to use on the international sports stage.

Let me back up.

Once upon a time, I dated a man who spoke with an accent. Probably on purpose. Even though he was a native English speaker. At first I loved it because I knew from many movies that as a woman I was supposed to find accents charming and endearing, but then I noticed that I couldn’t understand what the hell he was saying. If he texted something to me, I got it, no problem, but if he spoke to me in person or on the phone, it was really anyone’s guess what was going on. It was uncanny.

The thing about not understanding what the person you’re talking to is saying is that it interrupts the natural flow of the conversation.

“Blah, blab, blergh,” he’d say and I’d “mmmm” or “hmmm” depending on how the coin toss worked out on that particular day. I also adopted a strategy of talking nonstop myself, so that he would have precious little opportunity to speak. There were times, of course, when I had nothing to say, but I didn’t let a detail like that stop me because the Devil is in the Details and I have no need for Satanism at this stage of my life.

So I’d blather on about my day, the days that came before the day, my cats, cats of people I knew or had seen on TV, things I read in the newspaper and things that I thought should be written about in the newspaper (see, for example: my cats). Occasionally, I’d have to stop for a gasp of oxygen or to hydrate myself and then he would have an opportunity to say something. And of course that was a problem.

“Nice breasts,” he told me as I stopped to take a much needed glug of wine.

“Excuse me?” I said, because I am above all a lady and I don’t believe “nice breasts” is something you say to a lady, especially one that has nursed two children.

“What?” he said, “I like the dress you’re wearing.”

This is what I was dealing with. I was dealing with the person who made “dress” sound like “breasts.”

“Your English really sucks,” I explained to him and instead of thanking me for my wisdom and signing up for immediate diction classes, for some reason he took offense. Like the time we were at a restaurant.

“Can I have more butter, please?” he asked the waitress and she returned with a glass of water.

“Does w-a-t-e-r sound like b-u-t-t-e-r?” he wondered. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I ordered a glass of butter myself.

But sometimes he’d have more to “say.” And then other times, to my horror, I’d hear something at the end of the sentence that those of us who speak English like to call an upward inflection, designating a question.

And that’s when I’d have to guess. There are only so many times that you can say “what did you say?” and “WHAT?” before a dating situation turns homicidal and from the personalized toe tag that he had presented me with one evening I was starting to suspect that I was approaching that number.

“Blah, blech, blerg,” he’d say and I’d pause thoughtfully before responding. During the thoughtful pause, I would consider my options. A favorite would be to smile mysteriously, a la Mona Lisa, but I realized quickly that what Da Vinci made look mysterious and seductive translated to “constipated” in my capable hands. Or face. I could nod thoughtfully with a little head shake at the end, or I could say something non-committal like “perhaps”. But then I would worry that what he “asked” wasn’t a yes or no question but would require more from me, like an explanation of my theory of life, and other nuggets of wisdom.

“It’s hard to say,” I would sometimes sigh deeply. “Very hard.”

Especially for people who speak with an accent.

One year ago ...

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

susan weinstein July 4, 2014 at 12:47 pm

I don’t know what to say? Incomprehension is rarely charming. Equally uncharming, is when one’s all-knowing teenager is continually correcting one’s pronunciation with pitying references to encroaching senility. So I do have some sympathy for your nonnative speaker, though I think you said he was a U.S. citizen. He sounds like one you can be glad “got away?” Text the next one.


July 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm

First in series of weird dates?


the mama bird diaries
July 5, 2014 at 8:19 am

This is sounds so stressful! I mean, romantic!!


anna whiston-donaldson July 5, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Blergh. I don’t think I could handle this. Although maybe I speak w/ an accent, b/c my husband’s responses to me sound a little like yours.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes July 8, 2014 at 6:04 am

Depending on the surroundings Butter and Water can sound very similar.


Roshni July 11, 2014 at 3:05 am

I bet he did say ‘breasts’ the first time around!!


Steph July 17, 2014 at 9:04 pm

now I’m wondering if you have a charming accent:)


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