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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Problem with English (Part II): Idioms

My Yugoslavian-born husband is the owner of a book entitled, '100 American Idioms'. Which is why he can, only slightly self-consciously, make declarations such as, "It is raining cats and dogs!"

We are all terribly proud of him. How many men, after all, could come to America at the age of 40, with only a haze of remembered high school English, and then a scant handful of years later be able to say things like that? In normal conversation!

Which brings me to last weekend, on the Saturday after the big American Holiday of Thanksgiving. Due to the depredations of an unusually aggressive squirrel, we had to go buy a new 30lb sack of bird seed for the feeder outside our favorite window.

My step-daughter, home from college, had borrowed the car the night before. So, instead of my regular music, the sound system boomed out songs from a CD she'd left in the player. As we neared the local farmer's supply store where we buy bird food, the sound system blared a song, with an insanely danceable beat, to which the words, as best I can remember them, went, "I'm going down on you, I'm going down, I'm going down. I go down on you every morning; I go down on you every night. I'm always going down on you."

I thought nothing of it... until my husband, caught by the danceable beat, began to sing along, "I'm Going Down on You!" he warbled. 'I go down on you every morning! And every night!!"

My husband is a Serb. Which means he is completely unafraid of and unabashed by public singing. If you've got something to sing, well sing it out loud and sing it for quite a while.

As I descended from the driver's seat I was struck by this thought and interrupted him. "Honey? Do you know what this means? To go down on a person?" "Of course I do," he scoffed, "It is about going down to the river, going down the hill, going downstairs. Everybody knows that." With that he started singing with renewed vigor...

...and it was only with the utmost persuasion I got him to stop while we were in the store. I'm pretty sure he still thinks I over-exaggerated the reason why.

Note: The Problem With English Part I is here.