Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Universal “Yum”

When I first moved to Japan, my Nihongo was really, really terrible. So I looked for a language exchange partner and for a short while exchanged English for Japanese with this girl named Eri.

Now Eri and I had almost nothing in common. Like many “OLs” (office ladies), she collected Louis Vuitton handbags. Me? I had a backpack. Eri’s lips glittered with perma-gloss. And mine? They were constantly chapped (except during typhoon season, when they were constantly wet). Eri liked to meet in the trendiest of cafes; I liked the old places with bent over old people who stared at me suspiciously.

Still, none of that really mattered since we couldn’t really understand each other anyway. We fumbled our way through likes and dislikes, what the names of our parents and boyfriends were, and whether we liked certain kinds of food.

Every time we hit the last subject, our discussion went like this:

Me: Do you like (Dessert/Candy/X) ?

Eri: Yes. It is yum.

Me: Yum-my you mean. Yummy. It is yummy.

Eri: Yes, it is yum.

I would then sigh and spend the rest of our conversation stewing about Eri’s inability to integrate my grammatical correction. I'd be so caught up thinking about ways to get yummy into her head that I'd end up ignoring all of her other English mistakes.

One day I finally got her to say it correctly. It was one of our final language exchanges. Unfortunately, the rest of her English hadn’t really improved over the course of our months together, but I didn’t care at all. Victory was mine. Yummy.

But then last night at the weekly roast, L’s English cousin tasted the chocolate syrup and said, “this is yum!” Apparently it’s a British English expression and totally legit. Oops. Sorry Eri.

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