definitely deceased

You can’t beat the classification of human mortality by the master coffin maker Bezenchuk. Ditto the classification of avian mortality by Monty Python.

We used the famous sketch in the intermediate English class during the CELTA course I attended in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The students were asked to — and did — find all the words and expressions related to the poor bird’s state.

Customer. Hello, I wish to register a complaint… Hello? Miss?
Shopkeeper. What do you mean, miss?
Customer. Oh, sorry, I have a cold. I wish to make a complaint.
Shopkeeper. Sorry, we’re closing for lunch.
Customer. Never mind that, my lad, I wish to complain about this parrot that I purchased not half an hour ago from this very boutique.
Shopkeeper. Oh yes, the Norwegian Blue. What’s wrong with it?
Customer. I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it. It’s dead, that’s what’s wrong with it.
Shopkeeper. No, no, it’s resting, look!
Customer. Look, my lad, I know a dead parrot when I see one and I’m looking at one right now.
Shopkeeper. No, no sir, it’s not dead. It’s resting.
Customer. Resting?
Shopkeeper. Yeah, remarkable bird the Norwegian Blue, beautiful plumage, innit?
Customer. The plumage don’t enter into it — it’s stone dead.
Shopkeeper. No, no — it’s resting.
Customer. All right then, if it’s resting I’ll wake it up. Hello, Polly! I’ve got a nice cuttlefish for you when you wake up, Polly Parrot!
Shopkeeper. There, it moved.
Customer. No, he didn’t. That was you pushing the cage.
Shopkeeper. I did not.
Customer. Yes, you did. Hello, Polly, Polly! Polly Parrot, wake up! Polly! Now that’s what I call a dead parrot.
Shopkeeper. No, no, it’s stunned.
Customer. Look, my lad, I’ve had just about enough of this. That parrot is definitely deceased. And when I bought it not half an hour ago you assured me that its lack of movement was due to it being tired and shagged out after a long squawk.
Shopkeeper. It’s got to be pining for the fjords.
Customer. Pining for the fjords, what kind of talk it that? Look, why did it fall flat on its back the moment I got it home?
Shopkeeper. The Norwegian Blue prefers kipping on its back. Beautiful bird, lovely plumage.
Customer. Look, I took the liberty of examining that parrot, and I discovered that the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been nailed there.
Shopkeeper. Well of course it was nailed there. Otherwise it would muscle up to those bars and voom!
Customer. Look, matey, this parrot wouldn’t voom if I put four thousand volts through it. It’s bleeding demised.
Shopkeeper. It’s not, it’s pining.
Customer. It’s not pining, it’s passed on. This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed it to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies. It’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot.
Shopkeeper. Well, I better replace it then.
Customer. If you want to get anything done in this country you’ve got to complain till you’re blue in the mouth.
Shopkeeper. Sorry, guv, we’re right out of parrots.
Customer. I see, I see. I get the picture.
Shopkeeper. I’ve got a slug.
Customer. Does it talk?
Shopkeeper. Not really, no.
Customer. Well, it’s scarcely a replacement, then, is it?


it’s as cheap sitting as standing

But that Saturday morning, end of October, instead of trying to write a poem, he suddenly and without knowing why began to write out all he could remember of the sayings and turns of phrase his mother and her mother and her sister had reached for to colour and solemnify their speech. They came in a rush in no particular order, he heard them in the women’s voices, distinct voices, but any of the three women might have spoken them out of the stock they held in common for the family down the generations on the female side. Listening, he wrote: little pigs have big ears, least said soonest mended, enough’s as good as feast, face like a wet Whit Week, love locked out, like death warmed up, the ever open door, black as the chimney back, better to be born lucky than rich, pots for rags, he had a good home and he left, like feeding a donkey strawberries, waste not want not, made up no grumbling, rise and shine, sooner keep you a week than a fortnight, I’ll make one less, it’s as cheap sitting as standing…

David Constantine, Strong Enough to Help

más expresiones canarias

expresiones canarias

Since last October, I have been attending and thoroughly enjoying Spanish classes organised by CEPA (Centro de Educación de Personas Adultas) Fuerteventura Norte. But every good thing comes to an end: we had our last class today. Unfortunately, it is not clear if the classes will even continue next academic year, what with all the disgraceful budget cuts.

One evening I walked in the classroom and found these on the blackboard. Before the class started, I took care to copy them in my book — to share these colourful expressions with the world!

Canario Castellano
¡Agüita! a ¡Qué pasada! o ¡Cuidado!
amarrar el burro al guayabero b estar ligando
arrancar la penca marcharse, irse
batata, bobomierda, papafrita, tolete tonto, bobo (depende del tono, puede ser en broma o insulto)
enterao de la caja el agua persona que lo sabe todo (despectivo), un listillo
estar como un pejín c estar delgado
¡Fuerte chiquillo cocúo / morrúo! ¡Qué persona testaruda!
ir embalao d / follao ir muy rápido
¡Ñoss! e / ¡Choss! f para expresar algo exagerado
tener el rabo torniao g estar del mal humor, enfadado
  1. Es una expresión popular canaria, muy utilizada en Tenerife, que se dice como coletilla cuando alguien lee, oye o ve algo que le impresiona o llama la atención especialmente, ya sea por su novedad, curiosidad, ironía o porque le resulta escandaloso o impactante (¿Qué es agüita?)
  2. Guayabero means guava tree. But why one would tie the donkey to the guava tree? Maybe because he is after guayabas? Guayaba means not only guava fruit but also young girl.
  3. pejín a small fish, salted and dried (from pez)
  4. embalado fast (from bala bullet)
  5. Also ¡Ñohh! Estoy sorprendido por lo que acabo de ver u oír (from coño)
  6. Superlativo de ¡Ñohh!
  7. torniao = torneado, torcido

classification of human mortality

Умерла Клавдия Ивановна, — сообщил заказчик.
— Ну, царствие небесное, — согласился Безенчук. — Преставилась, значит, старушка… Старушки, они всегда преставляются… Или богу душу отдают, — это смотря какая старушка. Ваша, например, маленькая и в теле, — значит, преставилась… А например, которая покрупнее да похудее — та, считается, богу душу отдает…
— То есть как это считается? У кого это считается?
— У нас и считается. У мастеров. Вот вы, например, мужчина видный, возвышенного роста, хотя и худой. Вы, считается, ежели, не дай бог, помрёте, что в ящик сыграли. А который человек торговый, бывшей купеческой гильдии, тот, значит, приказал долго жить. А если кто чином поменьше, дворник, например, или кто из крестьян, про того говорят — перекинулся или ноги протянул. Но самые могучие когда помирают, железнодорожные кондуктора или из начальства кто, то считается, что дуба дают. Так про них и говорят: «А наш-то, слышали, дуба дал».
Потрясенный этой странной классификацией человеческих смертей, Ипполит Матвеевич спросил:
— Ну, а когда ты помрёшь, как про тебя мастера скажут?
— Я — человек маленький. Скажут: «гигнулся Безенчук». А больше ничего не скажут, — и строго добавил: — Мне дуба дать или сыграть в ящик — невозможно. У меня комплекция мелкая…

“Claudia Ivanovna’s dead,” his client informed him.
“Well, God rest her soul,” said Bezenchuk. “So the old lady’s passed away. Old ladies pass away… or they depart this life. It depends who she is. Yours, for instance, was small and plump, so she passed away. But if it’s one who’s a bit bigger and thinner, then they say she has departed this life…”
“What do you mean ‘they say’? Who says?”
“We say. The undertakers. Now you, for instance. You’re distinguished-lookin’ and tall, though a bit on the thin side. If you should die, God forbid, they’ll say you popped off. But a tradesman, who belonged to the former merchants’ guild, would breathe his last. And if it’s someone of lower status, say a caretaker, or a peasant, we say he has croaked or gone west. But when the high-ups die, say a railway conductor or someone in administration, they say he has kicked the bucket. They say: ‘You know our boss has kicked the bucket, don’t you?’”
Shocked by this curious classification of human mortality, Ippolit Matveyevich asked:
“And what will the undertakers say about you when you die?”
“I’m small fry. They’ll say, ‘Bezenchuk’s gone’, and nothin’ more.”
And then he added grimly:
“It’s not possible for me to pop off or kick the bucket; I’m too small…”