Saturday, June 11, 2011

"More houses, Less cheese," or, the perils of bilingualism

More houses, less cheese?

Walking around town, one day, I saw a wall scribble using--as is typical in Italy--the "+" sign for "more" and the "-" sign for "less" (like in this detail saying "more green, less cement" of a poster put up during the recent political campaign).


A lot of graffiti I see is meaningless to me, in one way, or another (soap box time: it's not "art," folks, it's vandalism, if permission to do it on shared property--including public property--, or the property of others, hasn't been obtained, first. When obtained first, THEN we can start dicussing artistic merit...I don't care if it's the Mona Lisa of Leonardo da Vinci, it's still vandalism, and should be severely punished as such. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program). Sometimes the writing is purposefully obscure...hidden messages to those in the know...sometimes it's just so scribbly--rapidity probably being the key--that it's almost indecipherable.

I thought about the phrase for awhile, as I continued walking to my destination.

I can understand why someone would propose more affordable housing for more people.

I'm with you on that one, even if not on the medium of the message.

But less cheese?

O.K., I have to eat less cheese because it's too full of yummy fats. It's a daily sacrifice and battle, but, with all the scrumptious and almost innumerable kinds of cheese in Italy, why would anyone be so militarized for decreasing the amount of cheese that we all eat?

Worse...this clearly anarchic statement implicitly and tyranically and inconsistently demands that cheese be less available for everyone, not just the writer, that we shouldn't have the possibility to choose freely whether, or not, to eat cheese, types and times of the day and the year aside.

And what about all those poor farmers, whose living depends on making and selling cheese?

What are they going to do to keep a roof over their heads and the heads of their families, keep everyone fed and clothed, warm in the winter, cool in the summer, educated, and--if possible--even with a teentsy luxury thrown in now and then: a new CD, fresh cherries (which are so expensive, even when in season), or even a few days of vacation?

You've heard the phrase, "and then light dawned?"


Without realizing it--I'm not aware of whether I'm reading, or even sometimes speaking, in Italian, or English, and have personally lived that hilarious experience on "I Love Lucy" in which Ricky ends up "translating" into English for his wife, Lucy, and into Spanish for his Cuban mother; furthermore, the use of symbols, not words, for "more" and "less" had lessened the language cues--I had read part of the graffiti in it's intended language, Italian, but--because of the scribbly writing--part of it in English.

The first vowel of the second word had been written with such an open loop that the "i" had been transformed in my mind into an "e."

What had looked like

+ case / - cheese

was, instead,

+ case / - chiese (more houses / fewer churches).

Even if you don't agree with the graffiti writer's opinion, it's still a whole other ball o' wax, and the cheese producers are safe from the rapacious claws of anarchism...for now.

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