If you need to hug reindeer…

March 1, 2011 at 11:25 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I collect phrasebooks.

I also collect red shoes, snake tattoos, and musician ex-boyfriends, but that’s a whole different story.

Matt Burke Photography

I was fifteen when I found a 1967 edition of ‘Teach Yourself Norwegian’ in a secondhand bookstore. Always drawn to the exotic words of snowy lands, I taught myself how to order black coffee, croon endearments to reindeer, and ask for a lift to Sweden.

Then, on page 147, the author was apparently compelled to teach me ‘You will be shot at dawn.’

Hmm, curious.

A few pages further, it read ‘If you continue, I will shriek loudly!’ (Varer det stort lenger, skriker jeg høyt!), and the enigmatic  ‘The first thing I saw was a pig’ (Det første jeg så, var en gris).

Really, what kind of holidays did they have in the sixties?!

All it took for a word wench like myself was that one intriguing spark, and my collection began to grow. I can’t pass a secondhand bookstore without scanning its shelves for more quirky old phrasebooks and their gems, and now I have the joys of the internet as well, I doubt I’ll stop anytime soon.

How could I resist, with treasures such as these?

* I don’t mind watching, but I’d rather not join in (No me importa mirar, pero prefiero no participar) – Spanish

* My hedgehog is not stupid! (Min igelkott är inte dum!) – Swedish

* Je suis desolé de vous quitter, mais je dois acheter un chapeau (I am sorry I have to leave you, but I must buy a hat) – French

* Oho! Tota noin … Eihän se vaa ollu’ sun ajokoira? (I’m awfully sorry … was that your hound?) – Finnish

* Nár fhág sé a chlaíomh ar an mbord? (Didn’t he leave his sword on the table?) – Irish

While it’s entirely possible I spend far too much time diving into dictionaries and chuckling at the sheer magic of words, who hasn’t been in a situation where you’ve looked around and thought, damn, wish I knew how to say I want to hug that squirrel in Esperanto? And because of course you now need to know, it’s Mi volas brakumi tium sciuron.

But my absolute favourite has to go to those glorious Germans, who thoughtfully provided us with this priceless line:

* I am not a conference delegate, nevertheless I would like a penguin (Ich bin kein Mitglied dieser Konferenz, dennoch möchte Ich einen Pinguin).

If you’re anything like me, I bet you’re dying to work that into a conversation.

For more delights like this, try out http://www.bbc.uk.co/languages and http://www.omniglot.language.

 And if you ever get to use them in a real life travel context, by all means, let me know!

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