September 14, 2001

Pole orders broiled octopus

Talking with my grandma about all the languages in which my wife is fluent, we eventually moved on to the ones of which my other half has only rudimentary knowledge. German and Japanese are the principals of these latter, picked up from academic and intern experiences. As I searched for the proper Polish word to describe "rudimentary knowledge" of Japanese, my grandma jumped in with a comedic teacher's suggested "Yako tako.*" "Yak" meaning "like," and "tak" meaning "that," most French or English speakers will quickly recognise this turn of phrase, with its teeter-tottering rhyming suffices, as a close relation of "comme ci, comme ca," or "so-so." Like usual, I felt humbled in my ability to express delightful turns of phrase in Polish, but I had to accept my grandma's fluency. Over the long-distance discount call however, there remained a silent sense of smile playing upon my grandma's lips. In my pause, I betrayed a question. "Don't you think," she audibly beamed, "It sounds Japanese?" *pronunciations left in English phonetics, for readability

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