It's All Greek to Me
When I was just a child, which the girls say is still going on, my family would make quarterly trips to Disney World. It didn’t matter that most of the time we really couldn’t afford it. Mom had had enough reality and needed an escape and it was always Walt Disney that provided it. My sister and I had no clue about finances or that the trip would mean we would be eating potato soup all week. All we cared about was that we were heading to the Magic Kingdom, the place of pirates and talking mice.
Disney was also the place of long lines and over-priced beverages. It was almost like buying from a movie theater’s concession stand, which really seemed hard to do. It was in those lines that I remember hearing a foreign language really for the first time. It was the early seventies and I was barely in my double digits, but I recall seeing the olive skinned easterners with their flamboyant clothing and veils and listening to them talk. Of course, I wasn’t sure it was really talking at the time. I mean, everyone on Star Trek communicated in English, which meant it had to be the universal inter-galactic language, right? So, why weren’t these people using it? I found it rude that they could be standing right there and talking loudly while still keeping secrets from me.
It’s September and I have that same feeling and I’m not even at Disney! It’s football season and everyone around me is speaking a foreign language, once again keeping secrets. However, this time everyone knows what’s being said but me. It’s frustrating, really, and I think they’re laughing at me. I would be. It’s like whispering about someone while they’re sitting there and then laughing out loud while looking at them. I get that feeling quite a bit.
The men at work start talking about a forward pass and I try telling them to be more subtle next time. “Ladies prefer a gentleman.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You said something about being too forward when you make a pass. I said girls prefer a more subtle approach. Don’t be so pushy.”
“Who said anything about women?”
“You were making a pass at a guy?”
“Of course. There isn’t a woman on the team.”
“Oh. I didn’t know you played for that team,” I said, totally confused.
“I’ve been on this team since high school. Where have you been? We’re playing this Saturday. You should come and watch.”
I felt my eyebrows lift. “You let people watch?”
“Of course we do. It’s a spectator sport. We play at Johnson Field Saturday at one.”
“You do it in public? Don’t the cops arrest you? What about the children that could be around?” I also thought the name of the field ironic.
“Sometimes the kids act as water boys.”
“You’re sick,” and I walk away.
I got into a similar conversation when someone said they had tossed a bomb and I thought they were discussing farting in public. They were serious and I was laughing as I proved I could make a bomb as well. I was getting that look again.
Football has its own language as do all sports and if I watch the game I usually put the television on mute so I don’t get confused. The rules at times don’t make sense to me as holding is a penalty, but slamming the guy head first into the artificial turf is cheered. I’ve taught my boys not to push and then they watch number 42 shove 13 into a cameraman. Everyone cheers as the cameraman is lifted onto a stretcher, the camera embedded into his forehead. So, now I have to explain to the boys that you may only maim someone if playing professional sports.
I tried to learn the language, but it was like taking college Spanish. I hated it and found I struggled with simple English after taking the class. I’m usually a pretty good student, so I blame Miss Hernandez. If she had come Closed Captioned I probably would have done much better in her class, but she rattled off her Español telling us about haggling over a sombrero made out of teakwood that now hung on her living room wall. “Spanish people love to talk,” she said. Personally, I think Miss Hernandez loved to talk, but I got tired of listening to what I didn’t understand. So, I dropped Spanish and took Bowling.
Once you get a sport enthusiast started, they can rattle all day long about a two hour game or the latest NASCAR race, which brings up a whole other dictionary of terms I don’t understand. Watching a car race or baseball game, to me, is the equivalent of watching hair grow. Yet, even though I don’t get the language, the terms crack me up. Cam shaft. Pistons. Spark Plugs. Huddle. Long drive. Going Deep. Most of the time I find I’m laughing quietly to myself because the terms in the sports world have sexual innuendoes easily attached and, well, that’s a language I do understand.
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