Tuesday, August 20, 2013

True story.

I am fluent in two forms of English. American English is my lingua franca . That's the language I think in and use to talk to my mom. I also speak Bad English at a level where I should be writing the Rosetta Stone primer.

 Bad English is the English spoken by maritime officers when they visit the US. All licensed maritime officers are required to speak English, which is damn convenient for yours truly, seeing as it keeps me from having to learn yet another language.
Here's an example, where I'm telling a chief engineer that, upon his signal, I will engage two cargo pumps at idle speed to pressurize his fuel system and allow for testing, then, when he can confirm oil flow to the proper tanks, he will direct me to increase flow to the desired maximum rate that he prefers.

 What I actually say/pantomime is "Chief, you tell me (spin right hand, index finger pointed upward in a small circle), I ( spin right hand, index finger pointed upward in a small circle) start slow slow. We wait, you call me when you want more (spin right hand, index finger pointed upward in a small circle). You show me stop (hold right hand in a fist) for maximum, OK?"

    That's an easy one. When we're finished with a cargo transfer, I have to talk to the engineer about pressurizing our cargo hoses with compressed air to blow out oil residue, to disconnect the hose, and to begin the closing paperwork process. All this time, the engineer is calling down questions and answers across the 30+ feet vertical and 20-60 horizontal to me, so we're conversing at screaming volume.
          At the very end of the job, the tugboat assigned to us will send up a deckhand to cast off lines from the ship and call out distances and angles to help the tug captain peel us off the ship. Often, new deckhands will hear me talk rapidly in Bad English to ask or answer relatively complex questions about legal paperwork, procedures and such. Many have expressed amazement that I can understand the tortured pidgin that gets spoken. I am often called to translate (Deckhand: "What did he just say?" Me: "He asked if I got my walkie-talkie back." Deckhand: I have no idea what he's saying at all. It sounds like he said 'telling you mumble in the dogface banana patch').
   Truth is, I speak solid bad English at home, too, which is why I picked it up so quickly. My wife and I have our own language. I know for a fact that at family get-togethers, my extended family is often wondering what the hell I'm saying when I talk to my wife in our Bad English.
      Really, I'm not doing my wife any favors. I'm an exceptionally articulate person, relatively cultured, too, I suppose, but I embrace and foster my wicked good Boston accent. You won't find someone with a stronger accent outside of Southie... that's a problem, too, for my wife. You see, Brazilian Portuguese is a phonetic language- letters for the most part have only one pronunciation, and while they do have some similar rules to Boston English (the letter 'r' when it's the first letter in a word is pronounced like our 'h')... but elsewhere, it sounds as it's written. So, with my disdain for the letter 'ah' at the end of a word, my wife has learned to spell English words completely wrong, aside from the Bad English influence.

 Here's some examples from her recent text messages to me:
Honey whats you there?  (Honey, where are you?)
"A burd just hit the winda next to my head"
"I told to you." (We already spoke about that)
"You OK today? You very chato with me." (Are you OK today? You are being a big pain in the ass."

 "Chato" is actually a very useful and versatile word. Pronounced "Sha-toe", is means 'Pain in the ass" but for the whole time we were dating, I thought it was my wife's pet name for me.

 At any rate, you maybe can see why at work I'm a wiz at incorporating body language, pidgin and interpretive dance into a seamless stream of English commands. At work, the worst thing that can happen is that I end up staring at an engineer like two dogs hearing a strange bird call. At home, though, a language misfire means a good fight. With stakes like that, the pressure's on to perform, and like a good dose of Viagra, I don't let you down.


Anonymous said...

well putted! i'm good at these kinds of pidgin also . . .

Anonymous said...

"'Chato' is actually a very useful and versatile word. Pronounced "Sha-toe", is means 'Pain in the ass" but for the whole time we were dating, I thought it was my wife's pet name for me."

- and, you're probably right.