Thursday, January 19, 2006

Buñuel Moment #1:

Along with Grandpa's, there was another wake taking place at the funeral home. After things quieted down, the manager made a little joke about the difficulty of having two Polish funerals at the same time, given how everybody's name was so hard to pronounce. We laughed and talked a bit about hooked-on-phonics and Polish names(The key players on our side were ZAHN-droh-VEETS and Tack. The other family? Say it aloud: "Where's your house key?").

Joking done, back to business: plans had to be firmed up for the next morning, names taken down for the breakfast, etc. The manager let us know that Grandpa looked really good, that the other guy being buried looked worse than him and was 20 years younger. Asked us if we wanted to see. Sure. Why not?

We walked over to the other visitation room to take a look. It was just like ours: opulently appointed (Second Empire), flower-filled, dimly-lit. Same soft music playing. Very similar-looking bald head in a casket. In fact, the only way one could differentiate the two would be by the color of the caskets.


Pablo said...

A story I once heard about Polish toponymy:

A reporter tells his editor, "This just off the wire! A terrible earthquake in the Polish town of Pszczyna!"

Editor: "Find out what the name was before the earthquake!"

The Poles would be better off with the Cyrillic alphabet, but don't you dare tell them that.

Be said...

That is funny!

I agree with you on the Cyrillic alphabet thing, by the way. I feel the same way about Turkish and Vietnamese, as well.

All those little diacriticals? They're shoehorns trying their darndest to wedge a language into an ill-fitting alphabet.

Pablo said...

It's the digraphs of Polish, for the various hissings and hushings and palatalizations, that are so crazy. Cyrillic does this more neatly.

I thought Turkish, with eight vowels or so, actually adapted pretty well to Roman letters. They use just a few cedilles and diareses, and invented a new undotted lowercase i for a sound like the Russian "yery," distinct from the other i. Then they made a dotted capital I to make the same distinction in uppercase.

Vietnamese, however, has all sorts of crazy vowels in its phonemic inventory, besides the tones. Still the effort to reflect all the distinctions in the script was heroic. I think the abandonment of the barbarously opulent and pointless esotericism of logograms (yes I mean you, China) for good honest demotic phoneticism that peasants can learn in a day is a civilizational step up on the way to an educated populace. Go ask King Sejong.

The secret's out that I am learning scraps of Romanian, at least the courtesies, in case I ever meet my new colleagues again. Not too many accents, but Romanian puts a cedille, not under c, but under s and -- what I thought weird -- t too. I don't know how to type them into the computer. Buna ziua!

Be said...

Pablo: you really need to get that blog up and know which one, Mr. Paul Puma.

Pablo said...

A whole lo' a lumps. Errrryyyyy!