When I was in middle school, the Blue Collar Comedy Tour was a really popular comedy troupe among my friends. BCCT was a group of four Southern comedians, the most famous of which is probably Jeff Foxworthy (in both these pictures), who started the infamous series of jokes that always ended, “…you might be a redneck.”
When I made the following really weird Czenglish mistake recently, this line came to mind. And then with some thought, I found there were many more situations it applies to in my current life as an expat in CZ. (Some of the situations can apply to anyone learning a Slavic language, I’m sure!)
If you start replacing the letter “y” in words with the letter “j” like it’s no big deal, you might have lived abroad too long.
Here’s a sampling of common Czech words:
jablko (apple), jahoda (strawberry), Japonsko (Japan), jaguár (obvious…)
All are pronounced with a “y” sound at the beginning. (You get used to it.)
But it’s really something when you have to do a double take at your own text message, which says, “They’re really janking your chain.”
Speaking of “y”s, if you default to saying things like “ipsilon,” “zed,” “cinema,” “flat,” “garden,” “lift,” “holidays,” “plaster,” “trousers,” “tennis shoes,” and “toilet” (and this is especially painful for an American) because you know otherwise no one will understand you and it’s too much effort to explain, you might have lived abroad too long.
I need a vacation from British English… ‘Nuff said.
It will never be anything other than a Band-Aid.
If spellings like oukej, čivava and krekr are normal to you, you might have lived abroad too long.
Internal monologue: “What the hell are krekry? …Oh now I get it.”
It also came as a shock to me that this is a word in Romanian:
But that’s American self-centeredness for you.
If American phone numbers seem to have one number too many, you might have lived abroad too long.
Not only do many companies give their phone number with a handy and easy to remember phrase that’s connected to their product (and whose letters are connected to the numbers), full American phone numbers are ten numbers long: area code + seven numbers. European phone numbers are, by contrast, nine numbers long.
“123-456-7890? How could I possibly dial this number?”
If you don’t know whether 7/11 means July 11th or November 7th, you might have lived abroad too long.
Americans write dates in exactly the opposite way from Europeans. I have mastered this, but when negotiating official forms or when communicating with someone I don’t know well, I still get confused. I’m always nervous and unsure whether they are using the standard European system or switching to the American one to help me, so I use the European logic as my default nowadays.
And finally, if you start curating your own slipper collection for guests, you might have lived in CZ for too long.
How do you know you’ve lived abroad too long?