Had a great visit from two old mission friends – one a favorite companion I haven’t seen for a while, and the other a beloved former zone leader who I haven’t seen for over twenty years. The occasion was this zone leader’s arrival from across the pond – he’s an Englishman who’s now relocated to Calgary and trekked down with his family to visit Temple Square and its environs. We had a barbecue over at the Cornell pad and relived old times. We remembered the triumphs and the tragedies and the knife fights – talk to my zone leader about that one – and got reacquainted. It was as if we’d seen each other just yesterday. I love it when that happens.
My children very much enjoyed playing with the other children, too, especially when the zone leader’s kids trotted out their English vocabulary. They played in the back garden instead of the backyard; they played football instead of soccer, and they had pudding instead of dessert. Those are some of the more benign variants in the dialects of the English and the Americans, and we remembered some times when the conversational mishaps were less benign.
Indeed, Zone Leader told of a time recently when he was in an American library helping his child with his homework, and he went up to the librarian on duty and asked if she had a rubber he could borrow. He only wanted a small one, he said, which disturbed the librarian even further. It took him a moment to realize that the proper Americanized term was “eraser,” and that Yank libraries weren’t really keen on tiny condom distribution.
We used to play around with this kind of nonsense all the time over in Scotland – we yanks would call him a bloody bugger with his head up his fanny, and he’d call us fags that were all stupid sons of bitches. See, in Scotland, “bloody,” “bugger,” and “fanny” aren’t really words used in polite conversation, whereas a “fag” is just a cigarette, and “bitch” meant female dog and nothing else. Indeed, we American missionaries would go out of our way to compliment people with feminine canine companionship on the quality of their bitches, just because we could.
As Americans in the Old Country, we learned quickly that we could avoid embarrassment by remembering a few simple rules: “pants” were underpants, so say “trousers” instead; “suspenders” were pantyhose, so talk of using “braces” to hold up your pants – I mean trousers – and feel free to eat “faggots” anytime you like, so long as you’re fond of meatballs, which is what the British definition means.
The other story I recounted, which may be apocryphal, is that our very American mission president, upon his arrival in Scotland, held a banquet to host the highest-ranking church leaders in the country so that everyone could get to know each other a bit better. In the course of the evening, he told of how he’d fallen in love with his lovely bride because she was a women with a lot of spunk.
Note to those visiting Britain: “spunk” is not really an appropriate term when describing the qualities of a prospective wife. It is, however, very crude slang for a liquid that a prospective wife is biologically incapable of producing, and thus mention of same made for an awkward silence at the dinner table.
I hope I haven’t made you buggers uncomfortable. If there’s any part of this post I should delete, I’d be happy to get out my rubber and get to work.