Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Whoa, ho, and Ho-Ho's

I may have already told you that I spend a lot of time explaining American colloquialisms and defining words for Leif. Sometimes there comes a point where words and phrases and ideas seem to overlap in his mind and then the discussion becomes, well, strange. Just a couple of days ago we had a phrase that intersected with a couple of other words we've talked about in the past.

Whoa, which in Minnesota is pronounced like "hoe", is what we said in my house when I was growing up. In cheesy Westerns it's what you say to a horse to make it stop. "Whoa, whoa!" is how we stop someone from filling our glass too full, from putting too much food on our plates or from leaving before we're ready. Leif heard this a lot when we were visiting my family in January and once I explained it he started using as many different situations as possible and with a look on his face that asked "Am I doing this right? Can I use this word here?"

Then one day when we were back home he was cooking dinner and asked me if there wasn't another word that sounded just like whoa, but meant something very different. Something not so nice. I suggested the shortened word for whore and he said, yes...that's what he was thinking of as some of his guests occasionally use the word. So I had to try and explain the how and why of that word, and how to tell the difference between "whoa" and "ho" and which one he could use. Because even if some people use certain words they aren't always the right words to use.

Which brings us to a couple of days ago when he brought home some bread from a bakery and I described it as the "Wonder Bread of focaccia" because that's exactly what it reminded me of. Of course I then had to explain the characteristics of Wonder Bread (consistently bland; always the same size, color, taste and texture; can be found anywhere in the United States; and that it lasts forever.) In a kind of off-hand way I said "Sort of like Ho-Hos." He gave me a funny look, thought for a moment and then asked if this was related in anyway to the ho conversation from several months ago.

Totally didn't see that one coming. But after laughing a bit I was able to say no, this was completely different. I then spent 10 minutes describing Hostess Ho-Hos, Twinkies, Cupcakes and Ding Dongs. I explained that they have been around for years and at least three generations of Americans would understand instantly a reference to Wonder Bread and/or Hostess Twinkies. I started a comparison to Little Debbies, then decided that he had enough to work with for one night. I think it's enough that he knows that there is a food to represent the American concepts of continuity, homogenization,  predictability and economy. Wonder Bread and Hostess. No surprises...always the same....affordable...year after year after year for generations.

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