In Houston, Texas, problems sometimes arose between Anglo members of the police force and Hispanic members of the community. To help resolve the problems, educator Guadalupe Quintanilla and two other people started the Cross Cultural Communication Program. In the program, Anglo police officers learn several words and phrases in Street Spanish, and they learn about differences between Anglo and Hispanic cultures. For example, one problem the Anglo police officers said they faced was that Hispanics would lie to them about their names. Ms. Quintanilla quickly identified the source of the problem. Hispanics often put their surname in the middle and their mother’s maiden name last. When police officers would ask for a suspect’s last name, the suspect would tell them their mother’s maiden name, which to the suspect is his last name. The police officers would find out that the name given was not the suspect’s surname, and they thought the suspect had lied to them. By the way, Spanish-speaking children sometimes serve as tutors in the program, so that the police officers learn how Spanish words sound when spoken by different voices. Once, some children tutoring the police officers wrote this sentence on the board to teach them some Spanish vowels: “El burro sabe más que tú.” When the police officers figured out the meaning of the sentence, they thought it was funny: “The donkey knows more than you.”
In pro wrestling jargon, the wrestlers that fans cheer are babyfaces, while the wrestlers that fans jeer are heels. Sometimes, one wrestler can be both a babyface and a heel. Bret “Hit Man” Hart is from Canada, and at one time his wrestling persona heavily criticized the United States, saying such things as, “Canada’s a country where we still take care of the sick and the old, where we still have health care. We got gun control. We don’t kill each other and shoot each other on every street corner. Canada isn’t riddled with racial prejudice and hatred.” In Canada, people were very happy with what he was saying, so there he was a babyface. In the United States, people were very unhappy with what he was saying, so there he was a heel.
Many people like the term “African American” because of the history the term conveys; however, Whoopi Goldberg, who has tried to avoid being labeled as an African-American woman comedian, dislikes the term. She explains, “I won’t let anyone call me African American, because I’m not from Africa. Calling me an African American divides us further. … I don’t have to excuse the fact that I am brown-skinned or black-skinned. I don’t have to explain that. I was born here. I am as American as a hot dog, as baseball.”
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating (eating huge amounts of food), following by purging (vomiting or using laxatives to rid oneself of the food). The word bulimia comes from Greek roots that mean “ox hunger” or “animal hunger.” Another eating disorder is known as anorexia nervosa and is characterized by self-starvation. The word nervosa indicates that these eating disorders have psychological causes in addition to possible physical causes.
Even though their days of glory were over, the Spartans resisted King Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, who conquered Persia. Philip II once sent a message to the Spartans, asking whether he should come to them as a friend or as an enemy. The Spartans sent back the reply, “Neither!” Because Philip II wanted peace, he wisely left the Spartans alone, although he did make sure that he controlled the areas surrounding the Spartans.
Esmé Percy had only one eye, the unfortunate result of an attack on him by a Great Dane he had petted. While he was playing a drunken tinker in the final act of The Lady’s Not for Burning, his glass eye fell out, shocking the other actors. Fortunately, one of the actors recovered himself enough to pick up the glass eye and hand it back to Mr. Percy, who was murmuring, “Don’t step on it, for God’s sake! They’re so expensive!”
Conditions were tough when Plácido Domingo sang at the small Tel Aviv Opera House. Because of limited rehearsal times and because of frequent substitutions, sometimes the operas were sung in various languages. In one of the performances of La traviata, by Giuseppe Verdi, the chorus sang in Hebrew, the baritone sang in Hungarian, the soprano sang in German, and Mr. Domingo sang in Italian!
Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, published an early story titled “Rules of the Game” in Seventeen. Later, a friend called to congratulate her for having the story translated into Italian and published in an Italian magazine. This shocked Ms. Tan, as she had not given her permission for this to happen. Because of this experience, she decided she needed an agent.
When Sook Nyul Choi, author of Year of Impossible Goodbyes, arrived in the United States, she found it difficult to communicate in English instead of her native Korean. For the first couple of years she lived in the United States, she says, “My Korean-English/English-Korean dictionary never left my hands.”
Jazz musician Louis Armstrong used to sing “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” although the lyrics contained such words as “mammies” and “darkies.” When singing the song, Mr. Armstrong frequently either changed the offensive words or substituted “scat” (nonsense) syllables in place of them.
Automobiles changed our language. In the 1920s, unpopular girls at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, were called “oil cans” and “flat tires.” In addition, the admiringly phrase “It’s a doozy” began to be heard — it referred to sleek automobiles made by the Duesenberg brothers.
In 1925, Albert Einstein gave the first lecture at the Hebrew University, Mount Scopus campus. His first few words were in Hebrew, showing his support for a revival of the Hebrew language.