It is a sign of mastery of a foreign language when you learn to swear and curse confidently, correctly and convincingly. My own mastery of German is near-native, and I spent almost half my life in Bavaria, but I never quite mastered the truly magnificent stream of vitriol that is Bavarian swearing. Although I speak German with a mild Bavarian accent and very occasionally throw in a few dialect terms and turns of phrase, I largely speak standard German, and when I swear and curse, it is invariably much the same as what you may hear elsewhere in Germany.
But the Bavarians have their own unique way of expressing frustration and insulting people. It can be quite devastating in skilled hands!
WARNING! If you are offended by swearing or blasphemy, stop reading now! This post is not for you.
In the Clubhouse, I have often said that my dog, Sheba, has taught me more about language than anyone or anything else. This was not a lie. A gross exaggeration, perhaps, but not a lie.
In trying to communicate with her successfully, at least to the extent that she does not represent a danger to herself or others, I have been forced to look at how language and communication work from an entirely new perspective. And it has been fascinating.
I currently have the unenviable task of working my way through my mother’s possessions. Working out what I or my niece may want to keep, what my mother may need in the care home and what I can store here “just in case”. And the rest will be cleared by a charity. Possessions, some of which were cherished, some purely functional, some of which my mother and father were once proud of, many of which they simply “possessed”.
And I look around at my own house full of possessions. I grant, I am a hoarder. You never know when a six-inch piece of string and a rusty paperclip may come in useful. Probably many thousands of books that I will never read again. Vinyl albums I will never listen to again. Towels in every drawer in every bedroom…
And indeed the house I own. And the money in the bank that I call my own. And it all gives me grief. Where to put it? Where to keep it safe? Who will want it when I am gone?
Possessions and ownership. There is one thing in this house I can never own, and it gives me more joy than anything else. As I type, I hear her snoring gently on the landing, but always alert to scare the willies out of any potential intruder. But I can never “own” her in any meaningful sense. Sheba is not that kind of dog. None of them are really.
And yet I still talk of “my dog”. Or “my friends”.