“I know a little German; he’s sitting over there” – Hillary Flammond, “Top Secret!”
The quote above is from one of my favorite movies – “Top Secret!” – which has become a cult classic. This was the 2nd full-length feature film that the comedy team of Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker did after “Airplaine!”. Note that I don’t count their first film – Kentucky Fried Movie – as a full feature film because it doesn’t really have a plot and is really just a bunch of shorts spliced together into a movie. IMDB describes the movie this way: “Parody of WWII spy movies in which an American rock and roll singer becomes involved in a Resistance plot to rescue a scientist imprisoned in East Germany.”
The quote can be seen in this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P22gPwGuLa0. If you haven’t seen Top Secret!, you have to. It’s hilarious and full of one-liners… the kind you would expect to hear in Airplane! or Naked Gun! movies. Here is a list of places where you can stream the movie: https://decider.com/movie/top-secret/. Go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait 🙂
The reason I’m bringing this up today is because in a few minutes I’ll be flying to Germany and I don’t really know any German – not even a little one. That’s ok; I’m sure I can survive on my few little cheat sheets I have and say something German-ish. Then again, I might mean to ask where the restroom is and accidentally ask for an emergency vasectomy. It could happen.
Many years ago, when I went to Mexico for the first time, I was in the same predicament. Not having enough time to learn Spanish from that Rosetta Stoner lady, I found myself needing to learn Spanglish – and quick! I remember the following three phrases from those Spanglish days:
- Me hasa go wee-wee: “I have to go to the bathroom”
- Me hasa go wee-wee pronto: “I have to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW”
- Uh-oh, pasghetti-o: “Never mind, it’s too late”
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I did learn some German cuss words when our exchange student was here 20 years ago, but I’m not sure they’d come in handy during this trip. They especially won’t help when I need to find the bathroom. In the opening scene from Top Secret, Nick Rivers (aka Val Kilmer) is learning German. He learns such helpful phrases as “There is sauerkraut in my lederhosen”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w_mBnzyVTg
When our German exchange student Konstantin came to America 20 years ago, he came after having five years of formal English training and education. That poor kid. He was great in English, but they taught those poor kids NOTHING about American slang. I remember one of the first days he went to school, and I was there when he walked in the door. It went a bit like this:
Lloyd: What’s up?
Konstantin: Something is up?
Lloyd: No, I mean… how’s it going?
Konstantin: How’s what going?
Lloyd: How are you?
Konstantin: Oh, I’m fine! Thanks very much for asking!
That was Kon’s first exposure to slang. He spent the next ten months learning every slang term known to ‘Merica-ind, and then went back to Germany, where his fellow English-speaking friends didn’t know what the crap he was talking about. I can only imagine what that looked like:
Friend: Kon! How was America!
Kon: Dude! It was the bomb!
Friend: They had bombs?
Kon: Fer shizzle, yo! It was happenin!
Friend: What was happening?
Kon: It was amped! Everyone was so chill! I had a blast!
Friend: Was the blast due to all the bombs they had? I’m so confused.
When Kon came over, he flew from Berlin to Munich and then over the states. He said he had a hard time understanding the people in the airport in Munich because they spoke “Southern German”. Huh? This was the first time I had ever heard of such a thing. Up until now, I was unaware that other countries also had extremely different versions of the same language. So, let me guess… is it a bit like this?
Northern Germany: Guten Tag (Good Day)
Southern Germany: Gooo-taaan Taaag
Northern Germany: Guten Morgen (Good Morning)
Southern Germany: Gooo-taaan Merrr-gin
Northern Germany: Fass mein Bier nicht an (Don’t touch my beer)
Southern Germany: Y’all fixin tah lose a finger bruh
In any case, I’m sure whatever German language phrases I utter over the next few weeks will be butchered at best. Perhaps I will learn a little German while I’m over there. Or at least see one 🙂