My mother is originally from Germany. She has not lived there since she was ten years old, but those first ten years of her life have had a profound affect on her language skills.
Her mother, my grandmother, still had her German accent when she passed away a few years ago. My brothers and sister and I have spent our lives interpreting these two women and now we have gotten to the point where we have, in essence, created a new language out of the English that they have been butchering.
My mother, although she does not have a German accent, cannot seem to say “crab apple” to save her soul. Unfortunately, we had many crab apple trees where we grew up and every spring brought the comment, “Aren’t the crap apples pretty this time of year?”
We used to hide a snicker behind our hands, but now we look forward to that comment each year. My grandmother used to confuse us when we were younger because she liked to eat cottage cheese. Only she called it “college cheese”. There is a world of square footage between a cottage and a college. But we’ve been calling it “college” cheese for so long now, that my daughter, who is nine years old, thought that the grocery store had a shipment of college cheese containers that were spelled wrong.
A phone conversation with my mother is like being on the Teacup ride at an amusement park.
“Aren’t the crap apples beautiful this year, Laura?”
“You mean crab apples, right?”
“That’s what I said, crap apples!”
“They’re lovely, Mom.”
“You know, Bob’s brother retired… wait, isn’t that when you get new tires on your car?”
“If you mean he’s not working anymore, retired is right.”
“Well, he is working, that’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
“Then he’s not retired.”
“Yes, he is. But he got a job doing newspaper delivery…wait…that doesn’t mean he’s taking livers out of newspapers, does it?”
“Newspapers don’t have livers, so I think he’s just taking newspapers to customers.”
“Yes, that’s right! Bob says it’s a very ludicrous job.”
“Now, honey, there’s no need to be mean.”
“I’m not, Mom. Ludicrous means crazy.”
“No, it means he makes a lot of money.”
“That would be lucrative.”
“Right, that’s what I said. He says he’s making enough to be able to afford to put Prego on their floor.”
“Wait, they’re putting spaghetti sauce on their floor?”
“No, no. Prego is that new fake hardwood flooring that’s in all the home improvement stores.”
“Oh, you mean Pergo?”
“Yes, that’s what I said. You need to pay attention. Didn’t you get any sleep last night?”
“Well, now that you mention it, Mom, I’m pretty tired right now.”
“Okay, then. I’ll hang up now if you promise to get some sleep.”
“Okay, Mom. Auf Wiedersehen.”
“A ream a turkey!! That’s goodbye in Itailian. I just learned that yesterday!”
“That’s Arrivederci, Mom.”
“Right, that’s what I said. Get some sleep, dear.”