Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Friday, October 12, 2007

"Thank Heavens for the Language Barrier"

There's a line in the wonderful and intelligent film, Spanglish, where the lead character, a Hispanic immigrant working as a housekeeper for a wealthy California household says, "Thank Heavens for the language barrier."

The first time we heard it, our entire household roared with laughter. Then it crept into regular usage. Someone, my husband or I, would get annoyed with each other and say something that perhaps would have gone unsaid (or been said more nicely) with cooler heads. Luckily, when you're annoyed, you tend to lapse into slang in your language of birth. His is Serbo-Croatian slang and mine is American slang.

So, neither of us would quite understand what the other person was saying. You can tell from the tone and face of course. Arms being flung into the air, things like that. But, we've discovered if you don't understand the precise wording, it's not so upsetting. There's a curiously relieving distance between the other person's biting tone and your heart.

Which may be why somewhere in the conversation, someone (usually one of the kids) mutters, "Thank heavens for the language barrier."

So, when my husband decided to wear his horrible, new, clunky leather sandals all day yesterday, my remark of "Crunchy Granola!" didn't put a dent in his excited pride. And when, after sniffing the air outside, he decided to wear socks with those sandals, my comment of "You look like a dork" didn't douse the bounce in his step. "What's a dork?" he said.

Well, there may be a word for Dork in Srpski, but it's not in our dictionary. I know, because in the heat of the moment to make my feelings heard, I looked it up.

But you know, I'd like to thank the dictionary makers for not putting slang in. They kept the language barrier intact. And waking this morning, I thought over yesterday and how happy he was striding out into the day with his Brand New Sandals and I don't have the heart to put a little arrow of poison into that joy. I guess we all can be dorky at times, and it doesn't matter as long as we are happy together.


Dušan Orlović said...

Tell him > You are Seljak (boorish behavior) or Shofer (Driver)!
Yes, It is a free country but Sock with sandals...

Best regards from brother

LeoNot said...

I'm with your husband on this one. Why is this a problem?

Viktor said...

I think you are mistaken - dorks do not wear socks and sandals.

Sandalandsoxers are a cathegory of their own.

That been said, quick! get the camera, snap a shot of him and send it to Sandalandsoxer!!!

Dušan Orlović said...

I want to apologize to my brother, my oldest bro, for excess in my previous comment. Most of us, Orlovic Family, doesn't care about what others think, so we do what it's affable for us.
So, wearing socks and sandals is common concept pursued only by system dressmakers, not by us.