The Essence of Caitlin

Being the cool cat that I am, I decided to follow the latest Facebook fad of looking up your name on Urban Dictionary. What I found was hilarious, mildly offensive and definitely worth sharing.

The definitions started out making total sense:

And then proceeded to enter the land of crazy:

Ya think some of these authors had a personal vendetta against a Caitlin in their life? Check your name on Urban Dictionary if you dare — I just learned so much about myself!

Literacy!

I think most people who know me would describe me as a fairly literary person, but it wasn’t always so. Up until about fourth grade, I couldn’t even read Green Eggs and Ham. I was literally the kid that got pulled out of class to do remedial exercises and learn ABCs, because I was eight and hardly read a word of English. If I was a kid today, I’m sure they would have given me like five learning disabilities.

At any rate, one day in fourth grade I was with my mom at Barnes and Nobles. I couldn’t read, so bookstores were mysterious temples for a faith I was excluded from. For some reason, that day the books arrayed on display incited my covetous desire to read. Left to my own devices, I picked up a book with a pretty cover, and decided that I was going to read it cover to cover. I was tired of not being able to read.

I don’t know how long it took me, but I read that book every day. I’m sure it’s not the best work of literature — it’s out of print and the lowest selling price on Amazon.com is 1 cent — but it opened the world of reading to me. By the next year I was devouring fantasy books by the dozen, in addition to Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck and the rest of the Western literary cannon.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was thinking about this and realized maybe I could mount the same offensive against the Chinese language. After browsing a Chinese website that has lots of book commentaries, I chose a few hopefuls and went to the large bookstore in Xidan. Eventually I chose 《X 的悲剧》 (The Tragedy of X), an American novel of no reputation that was probably translated because: A. It was written a while ago and wouldn’t have too much naughtiness to censor, B. It was written a while ago and it’s out of print, so C. It was cheap to get the rights.

My first choice was to read a Chinese novel, but I couldn’t find the authors recommended to me — imagine browsing a bookstore when the language has no alphabet and you’ll know how frustrating trying to find a book is.

I’m proud to say that not half an hour ago I finished my first-ever Chinese book. It was a mystery, which I figured would ensure that I was motivated to finish it. I’m not sure how much I learned from it, but I’m still pretty happy with myself. I guess tomorrow I may have to go to the bookstore again to find another book, which is one of my favorite activities in the whole world. I actually have some Chinese classics already, but I hear they’re depressing, so ppfffffbbtbttttttt on that.

Old folks need not read on

I recently changed the language on my Facebook page to English-Pirate. It’s fun, but I’m not always certain when I click buttons what they mean. Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll defriend someone or accidentally change my gender to male. It took me several days to realize that “abandon ship” meant “log out.” It also changed “in a relationship” to “hooked w’ ye loverrr,” which I have mixed feelings about. For one thing, I’m not sure I like the sound of being hooked by anyone; it sounds quite painful. For another, it kind of makes me sounds like some kind of gallymaid or deck wench, neither of which I’m entirely sure I know the meaning. Oh well, it’ll really get my Pirate up to par for next year’s International Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Spoken Engrish

On our way to the large tour bus that would eventually take us to the boat dock in Guilin, we rode in a minibus driven by an eccentric, hilarious yet somewhat misguided driver. From what we can tell, he learned his English from an American idiom phrase book. Every sentence was constructed of several idioms or movie references, including the following:

1. I’m the real McCoy

2. Left in the dust

3. I’ll be back (ala Awnold)

4. Okie dokie

5. Too bad, so sad

6. Between the rock and the hard places

7. Pedal to the metal (yes, from our driver mid-intersection while cutting other cars off)

8. I’m not a kamikaze, but I’m not a Sunday driver

9. I drive by the book

10. That’s one small step for man, one great leap for mankinds

11. Every cloud has a silver lining (in reference to the recent cloudy weather)

12. Make hay while the sun shines (in reference to the literal sunshine outside)

13. No ifs, no ands, no buts

14. Air Force One (his nickname for the large tour bus)

15. Hakuna matada (he actually had no clue what it meant, which he admitted)

16. We’re the king of the road!

17. They’ll eat my dust (I’ll leave it up to your imagination what was happening on the road at this point)

18. The cutting edge

19. It’s A okay

20. Hasta la vista, baby

For your consideration, this all happened in the span of 10 to 15 minutes, and after each idiom he would crane his neck around with a big smile, to make sure we heard how good his English was. It would have been a little sad if it weren’t so funny.

Engrish of the Week: 4, Mongolia Special Edition

As you may have heard, due to the Olympics authorities in Beijing have been cleaning up a lot of the really bad Engrish. However, their iron grip of logic, grammar and spelling has not quite reached Inner Mongolia.

A sign in the train lavatory:

The sign at the top of the gondola out to the sand dunes:

Perhaps the best Engrish I’ve ever seen:

Ok, technically this isn’t Engrish, since the Chinese and English match up. But it’s creepy as hell in both languages, so I’m posting it anyway.

Engrish of the Week: 2

Wow. I will NOT be ordering that dish. Side note: an honorable mention goes out the karaoke lyrics we had on Friday night. One lyric even substituted “pwn” for “own.” Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera ready.