references and extra information
GAINED IN TRANSLATION
Doncha just like assumptions – especially when they’re intra-national?
During WWII, my father used to pick up US servicemen.
Let me rephrase that.
His job meant he had a Vauxhall car – and giving lifts was expected.
He brought many soldiers home to meet a British family, and they
gave us candy in return for emaciated cuppas.
One day at the office in Birmingham, his head of security tiptoed in.
“I’m afraid you’ve been accused of being a spy.
A GI says that you have a Nazi
sign on display in your car.” My father thought it might be something
scrawled in the pervasive dust of those days.
But eventually they did find the swastika: the markings on the
handle of the gear stick… My
father swore never to give another serviceman a lift.
But he did, of course. Discuss.
Another time, I was the accused.
At a pharma company, I was running a course in business literacy
for their new intake of graduates.
(Disturbingly, I was also asked to train them in how to behave in
business meetings – eg turn up on time, read stuff beforehand, show
interest.) We were exploring
the nooks and crannies of language, and got on to common uncertainties:
already/all ready; alright/all right; and altogether/all together.
“It’s really quite easy.
Altogether means totally – as he was altogether out of court.
All together means as one.
We are all together here.
Of course, there’s another use: to be in the altogether!”
Everyone smiled, except a young American woman, who looked
puzzled. “Someone explain it to
her in the coffee break”, I suggested, and moved on praise synonyms:
words we use when we can’t spell the word we first thought of.
At the break the trainer tiptoed in. You’ve
been accused of using sexual innuendo. Talking
about nudity… When I had calmed down, I realised that I had been
privileged to meet the only one of hundreds of millions of Americans
never to singalong to Danny Kaye and “the king is in the altogether, the
altogether…” She didn’t reappear.
“Innuendo? I feel like
giving her one”, I said, using a familiar English expression.
They didn’t ask me back. Discuss.
Then there was that 1985 Friday evening in a bar by the Rhine when us
medico-marketeers were all together.
Harry said he’d like to buy an authentic music box.
Sure, said Heinz, we have factory
in the town with a shop. But it’s
closed at the weekend. Well
maybe you could send me a catalogue and I can choose one.
Then someone could bring it over when they come to the USA.
Heinz, altogether puzzled: how could that be?
Harry: in their hand luggage.
I tiptoed in. “Harry: what do you mean by music box?” With his hands, he perfectly described one, and ballerina twirling round to tinkly music. “Heinz, what do YOU mean?” Well, he said, in our music box you take a coin and you put it in the slot and a record lifts down and plays a tune. Like that one over there.