Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Hegemony of American Slang

Whenever my kids visit the dentist in Jordan they come back with funny stories about the conversations which the all-woman staff have while they are working on the kids teeth. Here is a guest post from Tayta recounting such a conversation:

Overheard in the Dentist Chair

We went to the dentist yesterday to get our teeth checked, and I was chosen to go first. The dentist, walking into the room with her assistant following, warmly greeted me. They began chatting, and I don’t think they stopped chatting for more than a second or two the entire time they were working on my teeth. As the dentist began the examination/cleaning of my teeth she said delightedly, “Your teeth, they are beautiful! Fantastic!” In the beginning, the conversation was directed towards me in English, but very quickly the dentist and her assistant switched to Arabic, and since I am a foreigner, I was not expected to know any Arabic. Little did they know that I understood the entirety of their amusing conversation.

Dental assistant: "Aw, she seems like such a nice girl, and she has such beautiful teeth! We should have her come some time just so we can spoil her, although, she doesn’t seem like the spoiled type.”

The dentist agreed, and then, changing the subject, she asked her assistant. “So what is this word ‘duh’?”

The dental assistant replied, “’Duh’? Well, it means: ‘Why are you asking? It is so, so obvious!’”

The dentist replied, “Hmm, that’s what I thought. You know, my daughter is saying it all the time now! She says it after every single sentence. Do you know what I told her? I told her,” Mama, why do you keep saying duh? It is not nice! If you keep saying it I’m going to…” (Relatives here have the custom of saying their name before the sentence when they are talking to kids.) After the nurse showed her amusement, the dentist went on,” You know what happened in the car the other day?”

The assistant asked, “What happened?”.

“I was in the car with my daughter and my son--and can you believe it?-- my son does not want to study for his exams! The exams are on the 20th and he thinks that if he just studies on the 19th he will have studied plenty. But I told him, “Mama, what will you do when you get older if you don’t get good grades on your exams? He innocently replied that he would have a car business and sell Mercedes and Rangers, but I told him, 'Who do you expect to buy the cars from you if you don’t get good grades on your exams?' And then my daughter said in English,” You guys. Duh!”

The assistant laughed and said with a little bit of surprise in her voice, “She said ‘guys’ too, along with ‘duh’!”


Jodi said...

I enjoyed this post so much. It really made me smile, and reminded me of time spent in the Ukraine. A young man there would greet my son and I with, "Dudes!"

Laura A said...

Yikes! Makes me want to watch my English! But it must be fun to be a fly on the wall, or in the dentist chair.