Saturday, August 04, 2007

Chicken Blue String or, The Column In Which I Attempt to Defend Our Language and Culture

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Recent opinion pieces in this newspaper have expressed indignation and dismay about the public proliferation of languages other than our beloved mother tongue (by which I mean English).

I share your sentiments. I, too, have felt our national unity crumbling when I've been forcibly exposed to some kind of foreign gibberish right here in the good old U.S. of A.

But I'm doing more than griping. When I'm asked by an automated customer service line to "press 1 for English," by golly, I take a stand. I mean, really, why should I press 1? They should give me English without me even having to ask for it. So I just don't press anything. I can wait just as long as any dumb old mechanical voice can. So if you call and the line is always busy, well, don't be annoyed. That's the sound of me fighting for our culture.

But it's not enough, fellow Americans, to passively resist. We need to go out and seek those foreign influences that are creeping into our language like Viet Cong infiltrating the barbed wire around our country's values. Take, for example, this word chipotle. Seems like everywhere you turn these days you're hearing about chipotle chicken or chipotle burgers.

The word always sounded suspiciously foreign to me. So I did a little research and found that yep, it's a foreign word. Mexican, to be precise. So the next time I heard a commercial playing in the other room about chipotle something or other, I ran in to see who was polluting our ears and assaulting our culture with words in Mexican. And who should it be but -- Taco Bell.

Hey, I thought, that word taco. Could it be -- suddenly my blood ran cold. It was. Mexican. "Pookie," I called to my wife, "I'm never eating at Taco Bell again!"

"You never eat there anyway," she said. "You say it gives you the poots. And quit calling me Pookie."

"That's not the point!" I yelled.

She sighed. "Oh, lord. What now?"

"Our language! The bedrock of our culture!"

"What about it?"

"It's being corrupted! Changed! By foreigners!"

"Whatever. Come to dinner."

"What are we having?

"Chicken Cordon Bleu."

"All right! I love -- wait a minute. What did you say?"

"Chicken Cordon Bleu?"

"Isn't that ..." I dropped my voice to a whisper, "French?"

She shrugged. "I guess. So what?"

"Don't you see? There are foreign words sneaking into our language everywhere! Before long, you won't be able to understand a word I'm saying!"

"I never understand a word you're saying now."

"Oh my God! It's happening already!"

"Will you just come eat?"

"No. Not if you call it that."

"Oh for the love of....what do you want me to call it?"

"What's the English translation?"

"For Chicken Cordon Bleu? I guess it's... " she furrowed her brow, "Chicken Blue String."

"So call it that."

"I am not going to -- oh, all right. If it'll get you to eat it."

My daughter walked in. "What's for dinner?"

"Chicken..." my wife said, looking sideways at me, "Chicken Blue String."

"That sounds gross," my daughter said. "I'm not eating it."

"Now you see what you've done?" My wife snapped.

"I'll just have a sandwich," my daughter said. "Have we got any bologna? And some of that Dijon mustard?"

I started to speak, but my wife's glare cut me off. "Do. Not. Start." She turned to my daughter. "It's just that chicken with ham and cheese dish that you like."

"Oh! You mean Chicken Cordon" she stopped. My wife was making slashing motions across her throat. Comprehension dawned on my daughter's face. "Ah," she said. "Dad's gone off the deep end again."

"Right," my wife said. "Now get ready to eat."

My son walked in. "What's for dinner?" he asked.

"Chicken Blue String," my wife said, putting the plates on the table.

"Oh," my son said as he recognized the dish, "Is Dad ticked off at the French again?"

"Just their language," my wife said. "He wants the house to be English only. No French, no Spanish."

"So no more fajitas?" my daughter asked.

"You can have fajitas," I explained. "You just have to call them something in English."

"Like what?"

"Like" I thought. "Rolled sizzling meat and onion and pepper thingies."

"Hey," my son said, "why is the phone off the hook?"

"I'm outwaiting the customer service recording..." I stopped, suddenly embarrassed. "Be quiet," I said, "And eat your Chicken Blue String."

Dusty Rhoades lives, writes, and practices law in Carthage. Some of the conversations in the preceding column were dramatizations. And by "dramatizations," we mean "stuff he completely made up."