A Guide to Gibberish in the Age of Bush


When interim President Bush traveled to Europe in May of 2001, he didn’t realize people spoke gibberish in many of the European countries. This led to some embarrassing moments, such as when he upbraided a reporter for asking the French President, Jacques Chirac, a question in French. The excuses were many– Bush had jet lag, his brain tumor was acting up–but the reality of the situation is that Bush is no different from most Americans (I mean no offense). He is ignorant of other languages. “But he speaks Spanish,” you cry, and I am forced to make my weary explanations. Of course he speaks Spanish (at least he did so in front of Jacques Chirac). In Texas, you need a little Spanish, if you want the lawn mowed right and the hay bales stacked in the barn instead of the garage. But Bush doesn’t speak the kind of Spanish that Spanish-speaking people speak. Bush speaks a little Spanish and a little English. Not much of either. Do you want to be like that? Of course not, especially now that international tensions are at a fever pitch and the slightest wrong word could spark a global holocaust. In the interests of public service, I aim to teach my fellow Americans some foreign language skills. Attendre.

Let’s start with French, which is a useful language if you are in France, non? (Isn’t it cute the way I use actual foreign words?) We will begin with a few simple phrases that you might need once you’ve expatriated to Paris rather than put up with this crap a minute longer.

“Bonjour, je m’apelle est Mike.”

(“Hello, my name is Mike.”) If your name isn’t Mike, skip this one.

“J’ai acheté récemment un chat d’empaillage sur le marché aux antiquités.”

(“I recently purchased a taxidermied cat at the flea market.”) If you bought a ceramic octopus or a nice little Louis XIV side table, simply substitute for the words “récemment un chat”.

“J’ai peur d’araignées. Tenez-moi dans vos bras, Marcelle.”

(“I am afraid of spiders. Hold me in your arms, Melvin.”) If Melvin is not around (au loin), lock yourself in the bathroom (pissoir) and call the police (tel.17 in Paris).

“Colin Powell est un Uncle Tom.”

(“May I please have a glass of water.”) This is a useful phrase if you like water.

With just these few simple phrases, you will be able to get by in France, or as they say in Paris, “Va t’faire enculer chez les Grecs!”

Italian is another useful language, or so the Italians would have you think. I’m not so sure. But here are a few bon mots that will help you make amici in Italia.

“L’odore cattivo me uccide.”

(“Hello, my name is Mike.”) You might want to change your name to Mike for simplicity’s sake.

“Il culo del Papa sono fermo e paffuto.”

(“Please help me. My passport photograph is unattractive.”) Try this one around the Vatican.

“Piaccio del che i guardando film ed il ciucciami il cazzo.”

(“Would you like to go to the movies?”) Italians love movies, because most of them can’t read.

Let’s not forget German! Unfortunately, my name means ‘gonorrhea’ in German, so I have difficulty finding sexual partners there. Perhaps for this reason I have received criticism from Germans on a number of occasions for making fun of them more than other European people. I hope these nützliche phrasen will make up for this, and help me pull the birds (Vögel).

“Arbeit macht frei.”

(“Hello, my name is Cohen.”) Just because everybody can’t be named Mike, can they?

“Bush will von seinen innenpolitischen Schwierigkeiten ablenken. Das ist eine beliebte Methode. Das hat auch Hitler schon gemacht.”

(“Is there a pharmacy nearby?”) You can buy all kinds of things over the counter in Europe that are prescription-only in America. How cool is that?

“Wassöp Mutterficker, gettdohn wit chobaddseff.”

(“Hello, Mike, how are you today?”) This is a common greeting in Germany, originally coined by Jakobus Braun, der Gottvater von Seele.

These are but a few of the many languages enjoyed throughout Europe. It is always wise to have a phrase or two in any language, as people are both flattered and impressed when you can say something even as simple as “hello” in their own tongue. So here is “hello” in a few more languages. The next time you see Mike, say them to him.

In Norway one says “De er dum.” In Portugal try “Siento-me doente.” Polish people say “Ty masz mal/y hujek”. In Austria, a hearty cry of “schleich dich” is appropriate. But wherever you go in Europe, remember there is no substitute for a smile, or pulling out of the United Nations. Que bueno?

BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter, political satirist and cartoonist. He can be reached at: credel@earthlink.net


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