I speak one language. In high school, I cheated my way through four years of Spanish — I learned a few key phases, but nothing more. During university, I minored in Russian, and with frequent trips to the old country I was almost, sort of getting, kind of, in-a-way, fluent. After a few years of neglect and with no practice, sadly, I never obtained a true duel tongue. I've met a few people, and have become one myself, that believe those who speak only one language are simply idiots.
I have a son. He turns two tomorrow and speaks three languages. At least, I think he does. He isn't a rambling mess of complete sentences just yet — but you can tell that his tower of Babel is nearing completion. Focus in closely, and you can see his brain at work — putting the right words in the right system for use with the right people, at the right time and the proper situations.
We share one language; my son and I, and I'm trying to learn words from his other two. Simple ones — mostly animals, numbers and letters and such. One of my favorite anomalies of this learning process is noticing how animals "say" things differently depending on the language. I knew this from my studies in the past, but had since forgot, just like most of that other language. Apparently an elephant says, "pawoo," and, what does the fox say?
Chickens and roosters say all sorts of crazy. Cock-a-doodle-do. Are you fucking kidding me? I'm looking at that over and over, in my one and only language mind you, and still think it looks and sounds just all wrong. I feel like a nephew of mine — a two language speaker himself — who would slant his head with a look of surprise confusion and quickly ask, "What-the?"
With the animals and their sounds and the words comes laughter and simple jokes. There are two "jokes" from as far back as I can remember that seemed to be the foundation for all others. As if, as a kid, you had to learn these two not-so-funny jokes before moving on to anything of real comic weight. One asked, "Why firemen wear suspenders?" With the answer being the obvious one as to keep their pants up. As an adult, pour moi, this joke has turned into: "How do you get a nun pregnant?" A: You fuck her.
The other joke was about a chicken, and asked, "Why does a chicken cross the road?" The answer: "To get to the other side." Okay, so ... not funny. Not funny at all, in any way. Yet still, embedded into my brain like an image in an Illustrator file. But, on a walk with my wife, while strolling our son, and preparing myself to tell him all those horrible dad-jokes (you get a book of them from the at the hospital when they are born, it's true), I paused and gave this proverbial chicken more attention.
And by using that word — proverbial — a word also seemingly branded into my head from over abundant familial usage, I thought more about what a proverbially really meant. And that fucking chicken, that coward ... why would he do such a thing? Why would any man, woman, or child throw themselves into on-coming traffic with purpose? Just to end it? Cowards! Chickens! Do they not know heaven is in the here and now? The other side promises nothing — especially for those who take their own lives.
While about to sit down for a brief repose the same "what-the" nephew from above — after over-hearing an adult conversation — asks me , "What is suicide?"
I respond, "When you kill yourself."
He said, "That's funny."