14 August 2007


English was not my father's first language. It was his fourth, in fact, after Farsi, Hebrew, and Arabic. Because of this, he had more than his share of linguistic quirks. I never really noticed them as a child, the way you don't really take note of your parents' accent or weird driving habits or total lack of fashion sense until you hit middle school or whatever and someone else points it out to you....at which point it starts to stick out like a sore thumb and becomes a never-ending source of embarrassment.

Two particular quirks hold fast in my memory. One was his use of the word "cautious." He must have learned "cautious" before "careful," because he almost never used the latter. "Be cautious!" he would say as I hopped onto a swing, dove into a pool, or went off to just about anywhere. It would burst out of his mouth even as a split-second warning, like when I was riding my bike or learning to drive. It just sounded odd, as these things go, far too formal a declaration when a simple "Careful!" or "Watch out!" would do.

The other one that sticks out for me is the way he communicated the concept of acting slowly. In Hebrew, one would say "le'at le'at," which translates literally as "slow slow." Different languages, different grammatical structure; it makes sense in Hebrew. But not in English. I'm not sure he even knew the word "slowly." Driving too fast? "Go slow-slow." Wolfing down dinner? "Come on. Eat slow-slow." And so on.

You may have noticed a few new lines in the Archives drop-down menu. Or, if you are subscribed to the Devarim feed, you probably have a bunch of new posts in your reader. I am importing posts from the original Devarim, working in little spurts. Slow-slow, it will all get done.


statia said...

I always say "nice nice" when I stroke the Mini's head or he touches my face. Kind of like "be gentle" for me. I think he gets a kick out of it.

OneTiredEma said...

I never say "Careful!" only once. It's always 2-3 times...because I assume the first (or second) time I'm being ignored.

Anonymous said...

welcome back! You've inspired me to get my act together with my blog as well. Congrats on the twins.