Monthly Archives: July 2013

Sweet mice for sale

Anyone who tries to learn a new language soon comes across words that are cognates, by definition, words that stem from the same source, as the German “ist” and the English “is.”

I’m sure many a language learner has tripped up on yet another form of linguistic confusion, as when two identical words in different languages spell the same, are pronounced differently and have different meanings. In a Spanish class in high school, I once tripped over “once,” which I thought meant “one time,” but which our teacher reminded me meant the Spanish “11.”

Additionally some constructions in this Las Vegas English-Spanish language bridge cause fits. We’re taught that “Jose” begins with an “h” sound but when we apply that rule to Jose’s girlfriend, Josie, we get laughed at. Continue reading

On tipping waiters

BRANSON, MO. —The only things we ordered at an Irish pub in Branson, Mo., last week were a couple of chicken Philly sandwiches, a Ruben and spaghetti. It began as no big deal. But it grew.

Let me explain:

My son, Diego and his wife, Connie, joined Bonnie and me for lunch in downtown Branson. We were in the final days of a mini-vacation with the Coppock side of the family. We’d visited many restaurants, but never before had we been regarded with such obsequiousness. Never. We summoned the waiter to our sidewalk table, telling him we were ready to order our drinks.

Here’s how some of the exchanges went:


“Anon, anon, sir. I wish I could have arrived at your table five minutes before you needed me.” Continue reading

Zip-adee-do, Dad!

“Nice going, Hemingway!” I thought to myself as this 230-pound body, tethered to a harness, sped down a slope called Inspiration Point, near Branson, Mo.

Imagine a 75-year-old man fantasizing about running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, a subject Ernest Hemingway wrote about, or in the style of George Plimpton, imagining that an average writer would play quarterback for the Detroit Lions, the inspiration for “Paper Lion,” a book and movie about such an accomplishment.

I was too busy to worry about thrusts, momentum, gravity, mass and velocity, as I sped down a long jet-line during our mini-vacation in Missouri Monday. Partially because of a dare from my young whipper-snapper sons, Adam and Diego, I attempted this half-mile-long zip-line trek.

I’d planned to observe the rides with the idea of writing about them, but the suggestion of my grandson and namesake convinced me. Yes, rather than simply write about it, why not do it, Pompah? Continue reading

Fiestas: They’ve changed

It seemed that the whole town made elaborate preparations for the 4th of July festivities. Certainly not to be left out, my sisters must have spent weeks perfecting their fiesta dresses, those white, lacey outfits held together at the waist, tamale-style, with a metal belt.

A brain freeze prevented me from identifying that kind of belt, suitable only for parades, linked together with big silver ovals guaranteed to leave lasting impressions around the mid-section. My wife, Bonnie, quickly came up with the term “concha belt,” with the ease we might expect from one who wears such a belt year-round.

My three sisters, Dolores, Dorothy and Bingy regarded the 4th of July Parade as they would an Emperor’s Ball, so important was it to be spiffed up on that special day.

A nun at Immaculate Conception, I heard one of my sisters report, even gave the coeds pointers on how to look presentable for the big parade, without seeming cheap, gaudy or provocative. Continue reading

Language interference? No way

This isn’t going to be a discourse on the “English Only” movement, which is gaining momentum in many areas. Expressing my opinions on the monolingual approach would take far more time and space than is available here.

But I once fell victim to a virulent e-mail forwarder from Deming. She sent to everyone in her address book a treatise by a congressman whose take on learning any language but English seemed — at least to me — bigoted. The politico’s dictum was: English is what is spoken in the U.S.; if you don’t like it, leave.

Yet, as I promised, that’s not what today’s column will be about. That’ll come later.

On what side of the argument do you fall? After many yåears of teaching, I believe I’ve heard every argument for and against the learning of a language other than English. We’ve all heard about kids who were punished for speaking Spanish on the playground; and we’ve already memorized the litany of reasons for English only, the chief of which is that “The way to get ahead in the U.S. is through English.” Continue reading