Odes to Antipodean fathers

FathersIt is Father’s Day tomorrow in Australia. Most countries seem to celebrate it in June, but Down Under it’s on the first Sunday of September, which is the month that brings in the spring. According to Wikipedia, this Sunday is also Father’s Day in New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. So, fireworks in some parts of the southern hemisphere then! Or perhaps a few beers round the barbecue.

The photo above is from a plaque on the wall which pays homage to fathers, in Portuguese, so I thought I would share it with you.

  • O meu Pai é un amigo – My Father is a friend
  • Que eu nunca esquecerei – Whom I shall never forget
  • Porque amor igual ao dele – For a love equal to his
  • Nunca mais encontrarei – I will never encounter again

That is a literal translation. If I were to make it more poetic in English I suppose I would have to make the fourth line rhyme with the second:

  • My Father is a friend
  • Whom I shall always remember
  • Particularly Down Under
  • On the first Sunday in September.

So, there you go. Happy Father’s Day to fathers everywhere.

Mount Tarvurvur in Papua New Guinea

Oh dear, dad’s burning the sausages on the Father’s Day barbecue again!


The quirks of Romania (and Romanian)

Romanian language

Romanian language (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My educational holiday in Romania (a two-week language course in Sibiu and a week of travelling elsewhere in the country) has, alas, come to an end. I had envisaged that while I was doing the course I would update this blog frequently, outlining everything I had learnt about the language, but it was not easy. For one thing, the course was intense, and the language is complicated. Furthermore, writing on my slow and simple travelling laptop is very time-consuming, so I just did my revision on pen and paper. Plus, the internet/wi-fi services in some of the places I was staying was not the best. 

In one hotel, the situation was quite comical: the wi-fi would would not work in the rooms but if you were lucky it was available in the corridors. However, the lights in the corridor were switched off permanently and only flashed for some seconds when the sensors detected someone moving nearby. So you would take a seat in the corridor with your computer, write a sentence or two, be plunged into darkness, get up and wave your arms and wiggle your body for the sensors to get another 20-30 seconds of light, and so it would continue. I did a lot of dancing in the hallways. People gave me odd looks.  

Here are some oddities of the Romanian language that make it a challenge to master, but an enjoyable one.:

  1. Romanian has masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, and the neuter ones act like masculine words in the singular and feminine words in the plural. And many nouns that you would expect to be neuter are not, there is no real rule or logic about which ones are or aren’t, so you just have to learn them by heart. For example, căpşună (meaning “strawberry”) is feminine, măr (“apple”) is neuter, and strugure (“grape”) is masculine.
  2. While the indefinite article goes in front of the noun (un băiat = a boy, un frate = a brother, o fată = a girl), the definite article is attached at the end as a suffix, and the suffixes vary depending on the gender or the whether the word is masculine, feminine or neuter and whether the word ends in a consonant or vowel etc etc. Hence băiatul = the boy, fratele = the brother, fata (without an accent on the last a) = the girl.
  3. Because of the above, there are also two plurals that you have to learn, an indefinite one and a definite one. For example, (nişte) baieţi = (some) boys, but baieţii = the boys; nişte fete = some girls, fetele = the girls. Getting confused? Don’t worry, it’s normal!
  4. Romanian verbs in the infinitive form end in a, e or i, but for each – in the present tense at least – there are two possible conjugations, and again often there is no real rule or logic to which set of endings a verb might take, so you just have to learn them off by heart. Plus there will be lots of irregulars and exceptions!
  5. Adjectives in most Romance languages normally agree in number and gender with the word they are modifying; that is, normally one of four forms will have to be used -either masculine singular or plural, or feminine singular or plural. This is often the case in Romanian too (but bear in mind that neuter words take the masculine adjective in the singular but the feminine adjective in the plural). So, for example, the four options for white are alb (masc sing), albă (fem sing), albi (masc pl), albe (fem pl). But, just to make things complicated, there are some adjectives that take only three forms, the plural being the same for both genders usually (mic, mică, mici = small), some that take only two forms, usually just a singular and a plural (mare, mari = big) and some that have only one invariable form, such as maro (“brown”) and eficace (“efficient”).
  6. Romanian makes greater use of the dative and genetive. Don’t ask me to explain this now. My head will spin and so will yours. I need a coffee!

Until next time, la revedere (goodbye).

Chansons for melancholic mates 1


OK, who wants to listen to sad old songs in French with a bit of accordian in them. You do! Imagine yourself in a typical French bar, you are on a stool at the counter, and your friend Manu is beside you, looking morose, defeated. He has just been ditched by his girlfriend and is drowning his sorrows. It’s closing time in the bar and he is slumped over the table. What do you say to him? How do you console him? You tell him not to worry, one lost girlfriend means 10 of your mates come back into your life. I am not sure it is a convincing argument. Neverthelss, take it away, Renaud, the master of melancholy…

Eh Manu rentre chez toi
Y’a des larmes plein ta bière
Le bistrot va fermer
Pi tu gonfles la taulière
J’croyais qu’un mec en cuir
Ca pouvait pas chialer
J’pensais même que souffrir
Ca pouvais pas t’arriver
J’oubliais qu’tes tatouages
Et ta lame de couteau
C’est surtout un blindage
Pour ton coeur d’artichaut

Eh déconne pas Manu
Va pas t’tailler les veines
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

On était tous maqués
Quand toi t’étais tous seul
Tu disais j’me fais chier
Et j’voudrais sauver ma gueule
T’as croisé cette nana
Qu’était faite pour personne
T’as dit elle pour moi
Ou alors y’a maldonne
T’as été un peu vite
Pour t’tatouer son prénom
A l’endroit où palpite
Ton grand coeur de grand con

Eh déconne pas Manu
C’t’à moi qu’tu fais d’la peine
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

J’vais dire on est des loups
On est fait pour vivre en bande
Mais surtout pas en couple
Ou alors pas longtemps
Nous autres ça fait un bail
Qu’on a largué nos p’tites
Toi t’es toujours en rade
Avec la tienne et tu flippes
Eh Manu vivre libre
C’est souvent vivre seul
Ca fait p’t’être mal au bide
Mais c’est bon pour la gueule

Eh déconne pas Manu
Ca sert à rien la haine
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

Elle est plus amoureuse
Manu faut qu’tu t’arraches
Elle peut pas être heureuse
Dans les bras d’un apache
Quand tu lui dis je t’aime
Si elle te d’mande du feu
Si elle a la migraine
Dès qu’elle est dans ton pieu
Dis lui qu’t’es désolé
Qu’t’as dû t’gourrer d’histoire
Quand tu l’as rencontrée
T’as dû t’tromper d’histoire

Eh déconne pas Manu
Va pas t’tailler les veines
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

Eh déconne pas Manu
Va pas t’tailler les veines
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

Eh déconne pas Manu
C’t’à moi qu’tu fais d’la peine
Une gonzesse de perdue
C’est dix copains qui r’viennent

That was taken from the 1981 album Le Retour de Gérard Lambert.

Useful expressions in Romanian, like oral sex tomorrow, perhaps

View of Sibiu

A view of Sibiu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am currently in Sibiu, a picturesque city in Transylvania, doing a two-week language course and really enjoying it. Because the pupils come from all parts of the world, our teacher and text books explain the finer points of Romanian (and believe me, it needs a lot of explaining) in both English and French, and there are Italian and Spanish people in the class as well, so four of my five Romances languages are getting a good airing. I am trying to chip in with a bit of Portuguese too.

I am supposed to be doing homework daily, but of course one has to explore the city as well in the cool of the evening and then one has to eat … I have just had a “Transylvanian Pork Feast” washed down with a glass of nice Romanian red wine, countered by a “cafea” – coffee – and it has just gone midnight, so I don’t know how much I can do before my attention wanes. We will see. I will jot down some of the things I have found most useful since my arrival in this country on Saturday.

Romanian has some accents that are difficult to locate on a non-Romanian computer, namely s and t with commas underneath them – ş ţ – to give a hissing sound – and little hats sometimes on a and i –  ă â î  – giving them more of an “uh” sound, a bit like a groan which you might utter if you are punched in the stomach. However, often Romanian themselves don’t use these accents (more out of laziness in informal contexts, such as when sending an SMS or an email) and some text books, I note, use an ă where others use an â, so expect a lot of confusion and frustration with these.

I have already covered the verbs to be and to have (a fi şi a avea) here in the post “Being Romanian gets the knees up…” and have given some of the common greetings here in the post “Limber up for the limbă română”, where I seem to have got my accents wrong. Or, more accurately, the text book that I had in front of me then had different accents than the ones I have in front of me now.

Here, in no particular order, are some other useful sayings:

  • Habar n-am = I haven’t a clue/I have no idea. Great for when people ask you for directions, or when your Romanian teacher asks you something.
  • (Eu) aş vrea o bere I would like a beer.
  • Aş vrea încă o bereI would like another beer.
  • Ceai cu laptetea with milk.
  • Scuzaţi-mă / iertaţi-mă, nu vorbesc românăExcuse me / pardon me, I don’t speak Romanian.
  • Vorbesc engleză, vorbiţi engleză? I speak English, do you speak English?
  • O zi bună / o seară bunăHave a nice day / have a good evening.
  • Nu face nimic / nu-i mimic / pentru nimicThat’s OK, it’s nothing, no problem, etc etc.
  • Bine v-am găsit!Nice to see you again. (Literally, so good I found you).

Lastly, something you should be aware of. Mâine means tomorrow, but the combination of vowels makes it very difficult to pronounce (there is no exact equivalent in English, it’s a bit like “muh-weeny”), and Romanians often laugh when they hear a foreigner say it, because foreigners (străini) often mispronounce it as muie, which means oral sex. Once you are told this, you become so nervous and self-conscious about getting the former right, you try too hard to say it correctly, that it inevitably comes out wrong. All I can suggest is if you are talking about tomorrow, do it discreetly in hushed tones.

Pe mâine – see you tomorrow!