Like many immigrants to Canada, my folks found it difficult adapting to a new language. They and their friends employed a mix of Dutch and English which became it’s own dialect. We called it D’English.
Dad’s first job in Canada was on a farm. His vocabulary was rudimentary. It was thus baffling to him when the farmer ordered him to take the cow out and get her ‘bred.’
“In Holland, cow eats hay not bread,” he replied.
I can still imagine dad taking Ol’ Bessie to Denny’s for the grand slam breakfast.
Dad’s next job was at a construction site. His co-workers were only too happy to teach him a whole variety of new words. A few days later mom and dad went to a dinner party where he proudly displayed his new lexicon. He turned to the hostess and said, “This is the best !@#$% roast beef I ever have.”
There was stunned silence.
“What is the matter? Dad asked sheepishly. “I pronounce it wrong?”
Dad sometimes got so frustrated by the vagaries of English, that he started making up his own phrases. Whenever I got too mouthy, he’d sternly say, “Not so many buffles!”
I’ve yet to find a linguist who knows what that means. I wasn’t sure either, at first. But I got the gist of it when he started taking off his belt.
Sometimes dad would reverse the meaning of words and phrases. For instance, whenever the Leafs were ahead in the third period, he’d say, “Toronto really has its back against the wall.”
“But dad, we’ve got a five-goal lead!”
You can tell how long ago that was. When was the last time you remember a Leaf team with a five-goal lead?
Dad’s friends were also masters of D’English. I was heading outside one cold autumn day when a Dutch visitor said, “Make sure you take something along to break wind.”
“How about a can of beans?” I laughed.
Dad glared at me. “Not so many buffles!”
Mind you, Mom wasn’t exempt either. I once told her that I’d love to be a chaplain. It’s not a word that flows off the Dutch tongue.
Later on she asked, “Did you say you’re going to be a cardinal?”
“No, mom, they hardly ever let Baptists pick the next pope.”
It’s not just the Dutch who have their own language. Doctors do too. I call it Doclish. It’s a language designed to mollify frightened D’English patients. Why else call a tumor a growth? It’s the perfect euphemism. After all, who could possibly be against growth?
Which leads me to my beef with politicians. With the world economy shrinking fast, it won’t be long before some finance minister remarks, “Don’t worry folks, the economy is now in complete remission!”
Exactly. No more growth.
If my dad were here, he’d tell them off. “Not so many buffles!” he’d say. The politicians wouldn’t know what he meant. But I’d feel better. After all, I’m D’English.