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Archive for March, 2010

Brilliant English

A week in Cork, Ireland a month ago helped me learn new ways to speak English. Warning: Learning the following terms along with driving on the left side of the road through towns like Ballylickey, Gortagarry, and the cleverly named Newtown may cause some mild brain damage. The locals recommend a trip to the pub for medication. (Actually, they recommend this for almost any reason.)

Brilliant — This encouraging and positive term is used approximately all the time. Use it when you find something that’s at least not completely bad.

Grand — Use this when you need a break from saying brilliant, or when something is just a little less brilliant than brilliant.

Like – While Americans have grown to like to say like, like in the middle of a sentence, some Irish have moved this to the end of the sentence. “I have a lot of things to get done like.” Obviously, that ending ‘like’ really enhances the meaning of the sentence like.

Rubbish – Roughly used like our ‘garbage,’ but used more often as a negative description. This collection of words, for example, is a lot of rubbish.

Ring – While my boss in the U.S may want to wring my neck occasionally, in Ireland they ring you with a phone to talk about something brilliant. Occasionally they will bell you to share some grand thoughts.

Bollocks – technically a certain body part, this is a general term of disgust or mild-cursing. For an opposite to brilliant, bollocks is probably better than rubbish. I wanted to spell this “bollix” but was assured that was wrong. And to that I say, that’a load of bollocks since I find bollix listed in the always authoritative wikipedia like this: “The word is sometimes spelled as bollox or bollix, usually in order to make it appear less vulgar.” Indeed, everyone can instantly recognize that bollocks has a more vulgar appearance than bollix.

Jacks – When you’re having beers in a pub, eventually each person is going to go looking for the jacks for a little biological relief. It’s not a crude term but I was told it’s not proper enough for a conversation with the president, should the president ring you up someday.

Lads – People such as co-workers or teammates or someone else you need to ring and discuss some rubbish like.

Quid – Previously a unit of Irish money, it’s now used for a Euro. Which reminds me, one night 4 of us were standing outside a store that had closed seconds before we arrived (“Bollocks!”). While we were discussing our misfortune, a man came up and started talking in a language I couldn’t identify except that it certainly wasn’t English. I assumed he was helping out with some info on the store. Suddenly one of the lads pulled a quid out of his pocket and gave it to the man, who had actually been asking for money. And as I later learned, it had all been in English.

I’m happy to say, I learned one phrase that struck me (seriously) as a term with some memorable profoundness. In a moment of candor, one of the lads commented on his girlfriend that he ‘loved her to bits.’ It only has a grand sense (not a rubbish sense) and I think importing that one to America could be to our benefit. It might be that term of endearment you never knew how much you were missing like. Brilliant.

For those who want to punish themselves with hundreds more of these, click here.

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I’m sure I’m only about the 100 millionth person to share the following unique insight. In places like Ireland, you tend to hire cars and let office space, rather than renting and leasing. And if your brain inclines ever so slightly toward word puzzles, you will have the distinct impression that their space rental signs have a missing letter. Thanks to the miracle of amateur photo editing, I can provide both the image I see and the one that gets stuck in my brain when looking at these signs.

These invite the mind to picture the prime high quality toilet spaces one can acquire – in this case in Cork, Ireland.

tolet1y

Ho hum

tolet1x

Intriguing

tolet2y

Yawn

tolet2

Dream come true

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Growing younger

It occasionally used to scare my kids to find that a song they like turned out to be from “my day.” Now they’re wiser and can spot such songs and at least pretend to not like the songs. And frankly I’ve found I actually like some of the newer songs that they like.

Regina Spektor

Well a little reversal happened recently – I found a newer song and they end up liking it. First they have to get through that denial phase, of course. On a flight home from Ireland, I dialed up the movie 500 Days of Summer, and then mostly slept through it because of a very short night’s sleep the night before. But I was hit by the opening song, “Us” by Regina Spektor. After chasing it down and playing it at home a few times, my high school senior got himself semi-addicted to it.

The only reasonable way this could happen is if I am actually growing younger and younger. Next stop: childhood? Perhaps when I have grandkids I will find them songs they like, or at least I’ll re-read the Narnia series, which I did at least once for each of my kids. Click on the picture for a quick listen, and maybe you will grow younger too.

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Cool Shoes

For an incredibly unique gift to that someone special (possibly including yourself), just send me a very small amount of money — let’s say $150, a theme of your choice, and a shoe size, and I’ll (seriously) get you a pair of custom designed shoes like these. They are head-turning second-glance gawking-look unbelievable shoes that will make the wearer feel much more special than they actually are. Which is a nice way to live every once in a while.

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Irish Beer and Hurling

While it’s true that I’m not likely to develop a true beer belly due to the simple fact that I don’t much care for the taste of beer, I did the honorable thing on a February trip to Ireland by actually drinking a couple of beers. And in their natural environment no less (pubs). Sorry to disappoint, but I didn’t do the American version of hurling, as in puking. No, in one of these pubs I received some instructions to the high Irish sport of Hurling, in which people run around and try to maim each other with sticks. This is much more barbaric than American Football where they run around and try to maim each other without sticks.

Shortly after this pub session, it was off to the Cork, Ireland hurling stadium for a match between Cork and the underdog Offaly. The Offaly team made only one mistake, namely they forgot how to play the game after the tied first half. The picture shows the basic points: a fan cursing at the referee, a Cork player down on the ground (not dead yet), and an Offaly player using his “hurley” to pick up the ball. You can’t grab the ball off the ground with your hand. But — and this is an important part of the game — you can catch a ball in the air with your hand while other players smash the ball (and hand) with their hurleys.

The game rules have elements of soccer, rubgy, lacrosse, football, and street brawl. There is a goal like a soccer goal, with goal posts above that. Get the ball in the goal for 3 points, or hit it above the goal but between the posts for 1 point. The players are actually amazingly accurate and can often score from 50 yards out as long as they’re not being clubbed at the same moment.

Afterwards I tried to enlighten a couple of the locals on a rule change that would make the game more exciting. My proposal: don’t let the other team score off the “free” hit that occurs whenever there’s a penalty. At least for fouls away from the goal. Currently, if someone pulls an opponent’s shirt at mid-field (mid-pitch), the team gets a free shot from there on the goal and they usually score a point. The lads didn’t yet embrace my idea so I will have to continue to slowly help them out of this darkness. I’m sure they’ll appreciate my efforts since having seen one match, I can speak as an expert.

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A recent trip to Ireland has inspired me to bring this blog out of its dormant state, which has lasted about 9 months. On the plane I sampled a couple movies that I probably wouldn’t run across in my normal life. One was The September Issue, a documentary on the making of the 2007 September issue of Vogue magazine. This would not appear to be particularly interesting material to me, which leads to my issue with the movie: It was surprisingly engaging and entertaining. Disclaimer: If I’ve ever looked at a Vogue magazine, it was an accident.

Besides the  fascinating look at one angle of the fashion industry, a compelling sub-plot is the collaboration and conflict between the two main players, the editor (Anna) and the top creative content developer (Grace). It’s an intriguing relationship they have and it’s easiest to root for Grace but I liked them both. One favorite moment: when the team visits Paris (I think) and the cameras follow Grace for a bit as the music begins a piece (can’t figure out the name yet) featuring a slow progression of somber chords. It was a beautiful little sequence. For some reason.

If you are a non-fashion-conscious as I am, or any more fashion conscious than that (this covers 99% of the world), take a peek at the movie.

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