Friday, 21 October 2011

Catalan Scatology

Scatology is defined by my faithful friend,, as 'the study of or preoccupation with excrement or obscenity', and it seems that there is no finer example of a scatological language than that of Catalunya: everything here seems to be centred on or around arses, piss, and shit.

In fact, one of the very first words I learnt upon arrival was 'pixar' (pronounced pi-shar and has nothing to do with the film company that made Finding Nemo), which means 'to piss'. It's a bizarre thought that you could think of any situation and I can guarantee you there will be a phrase, in Catalan, to bring the tone right down. For example, we British people might say to describe an economically well-off person possibly used to getting their own way as 'born with a silver spoon in their mouth', conveying the impression of shiny silver cutlery that only a member of the aristocracy would have. When I told my Catalan friend this, her face screwed up in disgust and told me it was unnatural to be born with metal in the mouth. Whereas in Catalan, the phrase is 'néixer amb la flor al cul' - literally translated as 'to be born with a flower in the arse'. Evidently, this is so much more organic than a spoon in the mouth.There is a distinct possibility that this goes back to ancient times when only the aristocracy were allowed flowers anywhere within the close proximity of their gluteus maximus. (This may be factually incorrect - there is no evidence to suggest that Hispanic aristocrats shoved daisies up their backsides.)

Another useful phrase, that I have recently been informed one can deploy at any occasion, is once again to do with things situated in one's posterior. For example, if you want to tell someone they have absolutely no taste (in partners, clothes, or in the sense of actual tastebuds) you can admonish them with: 'tens el tast al cul', meaning 'you have your taste in your arse'. Quite charming. I have to say, with this assortment of items concealed up the backside, I'm surprised that there's room for anything else.
A 'cagadubtes' is a person who, literally translated, 'shits doubts'. So, in the fine English language, an indecisive person. One of my favourite phrases is used to express a sense of hurry: let us imagine, for example, a student who is yet again late for a lecture. He jumps out of bed and dashes off 'cagant llets', meaning literally 'shitting milk' - surely a most inconvenient affliction. Suffice to say that if one is expelling uncertainties and lactose products from the rear end, one really ought to hence to a place of medical expertise, where - undoubtedly - a fine medical expert will insert a digit into the rectal passage to ascertain the cause of such problems. I personally would suggest limiting the consumption of milk and anything liable to make one doubt, usually horoscopes or people called Thomas.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Secrets that Brazil Nuts Hide

Pistachios, in large quantities, are classed as hazardous: the collective heat of these huddled-up little beasts can induce spontaneous combustion. This would make Guy Fawkes' Night spectacular and even tastier than usual. I also wonder if that might not be applicable to other things prone to gathering in large quantities. Penguins, ants, football fans... It would certainly be some sight to see in an Everton versus Newcastle match if  a Mexican wave of fire broke out around St James's Park stadium. Although perhaps the weather in Newcastle would be rather inclement.

This week, I learnt some fascinating facts about Brazil nuts via one of my gods, Stephen Fry:

One: they are not technically nuts but seeds. The big boulder within which they are encased is the nut.
Two: Bolivia is the chief exporter, not Brazil. Therefore, I think they should be renamed Bolivia nuts. Even if they do grow in Brazil.
Three: the trees need to be pollinated by a specific bee that in turn relies on a particular orchid. That's just being fussy and deliberately difficult.
Four: for some inexplicable reason they seem to rise to the top of cereals such as muesli despite their size and/or weight. But since muesli is just a dreary, dull, almost colourless breakfast I presume the Bolivia nuts are merely attempting to escape in a Steve McQueen fashion and head for the border.
Five: they can be used to kill someone with a nut allergy by the most ingenious way ever.

This fifth point deserves more detailed scrutiny, if simply for the reason that had Agatha Christie been alive today, surely she would have used it as one of her plots. Everybody knows that a person's nut allergy can be triggered when someone else has been stuffing themselves with pistachios, forgetting to wash their hands, shaking the hand of aforementioned allergee (that may well not be a real word. Yet.), and making them swell to the size of an obese hippopotamus, depending how severe the allergy is.
If all this is obvious, then, what is the ingenious method of a Christie-esque mystery killing? Well, provided that the victim is allergic to nuts and that the murderer is in possession of this vital piece of information, all the murderer would have to do is eat a good handful of Brazil nuts (reverting back to their old name) and at some point seduce the quarry (which was never problematic in Christie's plots). For, uniquely, Brazil nuts - those sneaky delicious creatures - contain something that makes it possible for traces of the nut to be sexually transmitted; thus the allergy flares up. So, basically, Brazil nuts are related to chlamydia and there should now be a call for David Cameron to introduce tests in NHS sexual health clinics. Either that or chlamydia sold in Tescos next to the cashews.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Challenge 25

You know it's going to be a grand birthday when you almost get savaged by next door's dog. At one in the morning. Whilst you're pretending to be the Pink Panther.

This is what happens when ultra-tiredness kicks in and a friend has already been making you laugh to within an inch of breaking a few ribs and has decided we should go wandering around the town in search of the fit boy we saw earlier. It had all been under control till then - running up a hill with outstretched arms clutching cheesecake doesn't count as out of control. It's insanity. What if I'd dropped the precious cheesecake? Unforgiveable. Fortunately, it made it to the fridge.

After finally falling into some sort of coma, the sunshine that has been around forever reached out and stroked our faces into life, begging us to awaken and enjoy the first day of October 2011. I had completed twenty-five years, even managing to get past a snarling German Shepherd. I honestly don't know how I've made it this far. The day commenced languidly, with crepes and coffee and learning new vocabulary in the creperie. Brunch turned into a delicious lunch with two friends' mums cooking beautiful exotic food from Vietnam and Thailand and local dishes from Catalunya. And the cakes were simply scrumptious, despite the fact that the candles seen from one side made it seem as though I'm actually fifty-two....

It was at this luncheon that a fiendish plan was concocted: Challenge 25. Throughout the day I would have to complete 25 tasks in honour of this triumphant diurnal course:
1 - Sing a Christmas carol
2 - Find a uniformed worker and ask them to give you something to wear from their uniform
3 - Wear a condom on your nose and try to lick it
4 - Kiss a bald man on the head
5 - Randomly choose a contact in your phone, ring it and sing 'Happy Birthday to Me'
6 - Ask a guy to remove his shirt
7 - Teach someone a phrase in English
8 - Ask someone to teach you some salsa moves
9 - Swap an article of clothing with someone
10 - Pretend to be Russian and order a vodka
11 - Make the world a better place
12 - Do a good deed for someone and tell them to pass it on
13 - Get three strangers' numbers in 25 minutes
14 - Busk with an air guitar
15 - Recite 'Jabberwocky'
16 - Take 5 photos with 5 strangers wearing an item of their clothing
17 - Give a rendition of Rebecca Black's 'Friday' in Catalan
18 - Give away free hugs
19 - Be thrown into a swimming-pool
20 - Have 25 drinks before midnight (this was later changed to 'before going home')
21 - Start an aerobics session in the street
22 - Make a fart sound in a quiet place
23 - Sing the Catalan national anthem
24 - Missing in action
25 - Also missing in action (evidently the amount of alcohol pumped into has rendered my memory pretty much useless.)

It was easy to be thrown into a swimming-pool; I didn't have to fear that my friends would have any scruples about that. It was easy to make the world a better place - just by being born I've done that. Numbers 3 and 22 were not completed, for by the end of the night I was swimming in a haze of inebriation. My good deed was Gummi bears for all the pub to share. Yet some chose to turn down the offer of free gelatine ursines. Strange people. The best challenge - so everone agrees - was kissing the bald man on the head. Mostly because of the fact I was so Britishly polite in the manner of asking: "I'm terribly sorry to bother you, but it's my birthday and I've been given some challenges. Would you mind terribly if I kissed you on the head?" To which there was no reply but the slow forward inclination of his hairless pate.The poor man must have been lonely. Either that or absolutely terrified of the drunken woman trying her best to speak 'proper' English to disguise her inebriated state.

One day, I swear I'm going to be arrested. Probably for calling one of my students and singing Happy Birthday to Me down the phone at him.