Once, I was riding the elevator on the way to a doctor’s appointment, and two young nurses got in. They were part of St. Louis’s large Bosnian population, and as such they were speaking in Bosnian. To each other. Not to me, and sure as shit not to the crotchety lady to my right.
The nurses got out, and the lady turned to me and, sensing some sort of middle-aged-white-woman camaraderie, said: “That’s so rude!” So I said: “Eh?” And then she said: “I hate it when people don’t SPEAK OUR LANGUAGE.”
So I said: “Ich versteh’ dich nicht.” I told her I didn’t understand her (even though I DID), and used the INFORMAL version of “you,” even though she was OLDER than me and that is considered VERY IMPOLITE. I showed her, is what I’m saying.
I don’t have to tell you that there are a shit-ton of people in this country who: a) only speak English; b) still don’t speak it very well; c) and yet get disproportionately bent out of shape when they hear a single fern’ syllable among the general public. This English-only shit is everywhere. And while there is certainly plenty of anti-immigrant sentiment to blame for this country’s bizarre commitment to monolingualism (“We INSIST ON REMAINING NOT SMART!!!”), there’s also another factor at work, and the elevator shit-fit points to exactly what it is. Like, lady, why do you care if two strangers are having a conversation you can’t understand?
I’ll tell you why: She thinks they’re talking about her. Everybody who hears anyone speaking a language they don’t understand assumes that person is doing so in order to talk some uninterrupted shit about all the people around them. And guess what? Sometimes that’s true, and if you don’t like it, you should learn more languages. For example, if you hear me speaking German Stateside and I’m not in a German classroom, I am probably talking about you.
Speaking of which: The entire Germophone world is full of news publications and websites that the average American can’t understand (and that Google Translate can only turn into gibberish). And I’m sure Germany has a press for many reasons (something about a “vote fight” comes to mind), but I bet one of those reasons is to talk smack about us right in front of our faces.
Yep, Germans have a lot to say about all the crazy shit that’s going down here. Shit they don’t really expect us to read. But guess what? I’m gonna.
HURRICANE IRMA (DIE ZEIT)
Die Zeit produced a veritable Blitzkrieg of coverage about our latest natural disaster, including major headlines about the death toll in Cuba. Also, did you know there is a German rescue team in Florida? Now you do. Anyway, the progressive weekly has some Things to say about the “Master of Disaster” and his response to North America’s recent spate of Apocalypses that have all happened at once for clearly no reason:
Trump still, and always, looks like the star of a reality show, and as such his alleged pragmatism in the face of a national catastrophe serves more as pure propaganda.
Damn, Alter.HILLARY’S BOOK (DER SPIEGEL)
To celebrate the release of a certain tome, the entire Federal Republic seems to have done whatever Germans do instead of popping a giant tub of popcorn—poured a giant bowl of Erdnussflips, perhaps? Eh probably not; Germans are too virtuous to over-snack, even when relishing in Schadenfreude.
Here’s what the folks at Der Spiegel are saying:
In the bookstore Politics and Prose in Chevy Chase, MD, all is once again right in the world of bourgeois-liberal America. Here, slightly northwest of the nation’s capital, Hillary Clinton’s new book What Happened is being celebrated like a revelation.
Like many of these pieces, this was written by a reporter on the scene in the D.C. suburbs—which means that not only are Germans talking about us, but some of them are doing it RIGHT HERE IN OUR FRONT YARD.THAT TERRIFYING NEW IPHONE (SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG)
You guys, if face scanning (AND NO HOME BUTTON!) are the future, I’m gonna just go ahead and scotch tape a Walkman to a Polaroid and call it a fucking day. But leave it to the Germans to ekshully zet’s not right even my abject terror. There’s not enough homeopathy in the world to soothe this set of burns from the Süddeutsche Zeitung:
Ten years [after the original iPhone premiered], the new generation of Apple competitors (Samsung, Huawei, LG, Lenovo and others) no longer has to panic when the current Apple CEO says “One more thing”: Most of the new features touted by Tim Cook (Steve Jobs’ successor) were leaked in advance anyway. And, while Apple presented them as innovations, Apple didn’t invent any of them, or even bring them to the market first.
To use language appropriate for my innovative new Walkaroid device: FACE!!!!THE PORSCHE LADY WHO SHOT THE GUY (BILD)
Last and definitely least, leave it to BILD to make sure all of the really important news in the U.S. makes it to German eyeballs. I mean, if they don’t undertake the public service of telling the tale of this “incomprehensible bloody deed” (Bluttat, BLOOT-tot), who will?
HE just wanted to sleep on the sidewalk in peace. SHE did not see fit to move her Porsche elsewhere. It escalated into a shouting match—and at the end of it, the young singer Katie Layne Quackenbush (26), gunned the homeless Gerald Melton (54) down!
Anyway, let it not be said that the right-wing German tabloid press doesn’t care about people who are experiencing homelessness.
Welp, that’s some of what the Germans are saying about us this week, right there in the metaphorical elevator of our Internet.
But don’t worry—I’m listening.