I met a Brit recently, with whom I was discussing what is considered as "trashy" culture and behavior in the U.S. He then told me about the British version of that concept, which is "Chav."

There's a popular site in the UK called ChavScum, which is "A user’s guide to Britain’s new ruling class." It welcomes the visitor by saying: "Chavs, Neds, Townies, Kevs, Charvers, Steeks, Spides, Bazzas, Yarcos, Ratboys, Kappa Slappers, Skangers, Scutters, Janners, Stigs, Scallies, Hood Rats, whatever you know them as, this site is about them, Britain’s peasant underclass that are taking over our towns and cities!"

They teach you How to spot a Chav: "Now what makes the Chavs' attire so funny is that they think they are at the cutting edge of fashion and that by adorning their body with hunks of worthless 9ct gold crap they look rich! In reality what they do look like are a bunch of...pikeys!" I don't know what a "pikey" is, by the way, but I'd guess it means "idiot" or "dope."

They also list Celebrity Chavs: "Have you heard the phrase, 'you'll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator'? This is why a lot of celebrities try and appeal to the Chav population and to that they naturally act like rich Chavs would! There are a core of entertainers who were Chavs before they became famous and have stayed dirty filthy Chavs."

If you're British, then this is probably old news. But if you're not, you should check out the site--it's hilarious and informative, and would make a good addition to your ever-growing international English vocabulary.


Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the U.S., which is why things seem slow in the online world, and why people are taking a day off from work and school. Here's some info about it:

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers...By the late 1800s, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day and, after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America's wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. (Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead, is celebrated each year on November 11.)...Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Which reminds me: I'm still working on the American Culture tips I promised a while ago, so when they're finished, I'll alert the masses when the site is updated.


Busy with Spanish

It's a common thing to say in the U.S.: "I'm busy." You'll often hear it. Here's a typical conversation on the street:

"Hey Joe, I haven't seen you in a while. How are you doing?"

I was talking to a freelance illustrator tonight as we were walking out of an office building, and he was telling me about the storyboards he creates for commercials.

"Sounds interesting," I said.
"And I'm so busy," he said.

At least it's better than not having any work.

During my current busy-ness, I came upon some interesting sites. One was announced late last night on WGN: a tiny press called Caffeine Society. They like to talk about cafes in haikus.

I also stumbled upon a site by an American expat in Mexico, who's assembled his own dictionary of Mexican Spanish that covers car parts. He says: "This lexicon was put together with the help of my mechanic friends here in Lerdo, Durango; thus it reflects common usage in north-central Mexico." It seems handy, especially if you've been stumped by that region's vocabulary.

And if you need further help with Spanish, there's a British site that seems to focus more on the Spain variety, but it's still helpful.



I just got word from Nev, who said he feels "honoured" to be the Metrolingua British English Consultant. If only we could work on his spelling. In the meantime, we're going to read some more of his British-English comments, but right now, I have too much work to finish.


Brit revealed

Here at Metrolingua, I've featured the use of British English and have mentioned a German-speaking Brit. Well, I've been given permission to reveal his identity: John Nevin, or Nev, as I call him. I "met" him at a couple of Rush sites, and he's become an online "friend." Maybe one century I'll meet him, if I ever get back to Germany.

If you don't know who I'm talking about, perhaps you've read the posts that feature him, such as his opinion about Spinal Tap's accent, his thoughts on Denglish, and his British English-revealing posts, such as his comments about a Rush show, and his use of the word "busking," which became a Metrolingua quiz.

So, because of his ongoing contributions, I've decided to make him the Metrolingua British English consultant. Except he doesn't know yet. So I better email him.



Someone handed me the book, An End to Evil, and told me to read the following passage, probably because I often say that if people are treated like animals, they're going to behave like them, especially when they have nothing else to do:

Take a vast area of the earth’s surface, inhabited by people who remember a great history. Enrich them enough that they can afford satellite television and Internet connections, so that they can see what life is like across the Mediterranean or across the Atlantic. Then sentence them to live in choking, miserable, polluted cities ruled by corrupt, incompetent officials. Entangle them in regulations and controls so that nobody can ever make much of a living except by paying off some crooked official. Subordinate them to elites who have suddenly become incalculably wealthy from shady dealings involving petroleum resources that supposedly belong to all. Tax them for the benefit of governments that provide nothing in return except military establishments that lose every war they fight: not roads, not clinics, not clean water, not street lighting. Reduce their living standards year after year for two decades. Deny them any forum or institution—not a parliament, not even a city council—where they may freely discuss their grievances. Kill, jail, corrupt, or drive into exile every political figure, artist, or intellectual who could articulate a modern alternative to bureaucratic tyranny. Neglect, close, or simply fail to create an effective school system—so that the minds of the next generation are formed entirely by clerics whose own minds contain nothing but medieval theology and a smattering of third world nationalist self-pity. Combine all this, and what else would one expect to create but an enraged populace ready to transmute all the frustrations in its frustrating daily life into a fanatical hatred of everything "un-Islamic."

The italics are from the authors--David Frum and Richard Perle.


English quiz

Do you know what he's talking about?

"I can't imagine how America gets along without the word 'busking.' What a strange world it is. All I had to do to busk in New Zealand was go into the shop I busked in front of and ask them if busking would be all right. Fairly regular verb, useless if you don't know what I'm talking about though!"

The answer is forthcoming (after my Japanese and French studies). Just wanted to challenge all you readers with this mini-quiz.

Answer: street performing. In other words, playing an instrument or singing outside on the sidewalk.


No big deal

It's interesting to see people's reactions when I tell them that I can speak (and read some) Japanese. When I was working at Art Chicago, I met someone who speaks Russian, Lithuanian, and English, and is planning on learning French. I ran into her the other day, and when I gave her my card, she said incredulously, "You speak Japanese? I didn't know that." I don't tell people unless we're talking about language, or if they ask me what I do. Translating is only part of my life, but I've noticed that Japanese gets a lot of mileage.

For instance, French people are known for not being psyched about Americans, for various reasons. When I met a couple of French people at Art Chicago, they spoke some French to me, and when it was clear that my French wasn't even close to decent, I told them, "mais je parle japonais." Well, their faces lit up. We continued speaking in French, and while I showed an obvious linguistic struggle, one of them was so impressed with the Japanese thing, that it pretty much excused me from the butchering of their language. So I've learned my lesson: if I do get to France some day, I'll speak badly, and will tell them that I'm sorry, but I speak Japanese. That should pardon me from some American sins.

Japanese also seems to cancel out multilingual European-language speakers. Like the woman I mentioned earlier: she speaks three languages fluently, yet she's impressed by just my one. And I've seen that with other people, too: I know people who speak at least two foreign languages fluently, but when they hear about the Japanese, it's as if I've taken a ray gun and have melted them down--I've "won" without even trying (or caring about it).

I've worked on some pretty interesting projects, but when I go through the list of what I do for a living, people just stop on the Japanese part. At least the Westerners do, or the ones who are non-Asian language-speaking people; Asian people or Westerners who've been steeped in Asian stuff aren't too impressed.

So if you're making the rounds in the non-Japanese/non-Asian world, mention the fact that you speak Japanese, and others' eyes will widen. It's especially useful at snobby functions and slick dinner parties.


Bono really is short

Lately, I've been in the U2 world since the band, and some fans, have come to town. I literally got a few hours sleep last night, which means bedtime soon. But I did find out for myself that Bono is, indeed, short, as a fan told me last week.

I (and a few hundred other people) saw him exit his hotel, and a hardcore fan in front of me exclaimed, "He's short!" I wondered how she'd just discovered that fact after seeing the band a hundred times (according to her estimate). I would say that he is about 5'3", which is what the fan told me.

I managed to get a couple of lame pictures, due to severe fan-pushing from behind, and I've just posted one above (in 10/07): he's in the gray sweatsuit-type outfit, wearing his hat backwards.

So there you have it, it's been confirmed, that he really is short. One fan claims that Bono wears lifts inside his platform shoes to appear taller. Who knows--vanity comes in all sizes.


Neil ain't bad

Neil Diamond is on tour, so he's been making some media appearances. I was never interested in him, but maybe because I'm doing the writing thing, in between bouts of self-pity, I've been paying attention to his lyrics. They are good. Check this one out--you've gotta admit that he's quite talented:

Written by Neil Diamond

L.A.'s fine, the sun shines most the time
And the feeling is 'lay back'
Palm trees grow, and rents are low
But you know I keep thinkin' about
Making my way back

Well I'm New York City born and raised
But nowadays, I'm lost between two shores
L.A.'s fine, but it ain't home
New York's home, but it ain't mine no more

"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair
"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

Did you ever read about a frog who dreamed of bein' a king
And then became one
Well except for the names and a few other changes
I you talk about me, the story's the same one

But I got an emptiness deep inside
And I've tried, but it won't let me go
And I'm not a man who likes to swear
But I never cared for the sound of being alone

"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair
"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still

1971 Prophet Music, Inc. (ASCAP)

I think that's the kind of song that people who who are alone, either physically or otherwise, can relate to. You can see all his lyrics at a fan site.


Bono is short

U2 is coming to town, so a fan is staying with me. He's managed to meet Bono at least a few times, and he swears that Bono is short. He's guessing that Bono is about 5'3" at the most. His pictures and other media appearances are deceiving. Hopefully I'll find out for myself ;)

This concludes the special U2 report from the field.

Update: I found out for myself.


Wish I was there

Someone sent me a link to a site about the Brazilian town Araçatuba. I'm assuming that the information was originally written in Portuguese, since the translations are quite, um, interesting:

The industrialization is enlarged in this decade, having as an example the coming of Nestlé and the foundation of T. Maia Meatplant, belonging to the cattle raiser Tião Maia, one of the most famous in Brazil. The time is also marked by the social developments in the city, like the construction of bridges and roads.

In the 60's, the industrial development grows more and more. The beginning of a new economical cycle - the plantation of sugar cain - gave breath to the progress in the city in the 70's.

If only they'd asked me to do it ;)

Seriously, it looks like a beautiful place--here are some pictures. Yet another reason to get over there, especially since my spoken Portuguese has severely lapsed.



I met some interesting people at Rick Kogan's show, both of whom are singers: Heather Moran and Denise Tomasello. I chatted with Heather during the breaks, and other than that, I was just observing the show from my corner chair. Going to the station is sort of like hanging out in someone's living room, except that I can only speak when the commercials are running.

I am incredibly tired because I've been working a lot of hours at Art Chicago, in addition to my other work. Even though today was my day off, I still had to wake up really early to get to the show in time. I haven't had decent sleep in a few days. Even the strongest coffee can't penetrate my exhaustion.