Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Divided By A Common Language

The countergirl at Tim Horton’s, where they must brew sixty pots of coffee each and every day, had never heard the term “half-caff,” and couldn’t figure it out from context. Just when I finally manage to stop asking for “regulah” when I want cream & sugar, I find I must spell out in detail my desire for a 50/50 blend of decaffeinated and hi-test coffees. Mind-boggling.

Looking at her expression of utter incomprehension, I flashed on a day some fifteen years ago and more, sitting in a bar on our first day in London and D trying to order a Bass Ale* from a waitress who’d not only never heard of the stuff, but who seemed constitutionally incapable of even processing the sounds into meaningful syllables. “Is that some American cocktail?” she finally asked, after D had repeated herself a dozen times at varying volumes and tempi, and with exasperation running high on both sides. IT’S BREWED IN STOKE-ON-MOTHERFUCKING-TRENT, SWEETHEART. Jesus wept.

* I know (now) that Bass is a niche brand in the Mother Country, but surely the presence of the word “ale” in the name should be sufficient clue as to what sort of drink it is. Ale. ALE. It’s a short, punchy word, easily heard even in crowded pubs for cryeye.

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