Scrabble, Callaghan edition. (+ a favorite vintage commercial!)

Callaghan and I started playing Scrabble last week. Have you ever played Scrabble with an English as a Second Language (ESL) person?

It’s been fun! It’s been interesting and instructive, and it’s a great way for a non-native speaker to learn how to spell words in whatever version of Scrabble you’re playing. (I would love to have a French version.)

For instance, Callaghan’s first move was “ew,” which, according to Merriam-Webster’s (MW) Scrabble dictionary, isn’t playable. “Maybe because it’s an exclamation,” I speculated. He replied that “ew” is NOT an exclamation. It’s a female sheep. See? Now he knows how to spell “ewe.”

Then I put down “pantie,” which he challenged on the grounds that it ends with a ‘y’. MW said that both spellings were correct.

MW’s Scrabble dictionary is a great resource. We pulled it up on Callaghan’s phone so he could have it at his fingertips. He didn’t like that “pantie” came up on the page when he opened it from his bookmark, but that was easily fixed. He deleted the bookmark, entered a new word in the search field, and re-bookmarked it.

Now his dictionary opens up with “igottaewe.”

“Because I learned that a female sheep is a ‘ewe’,” he said, knowing that I was going to ask. “It’s generic.”

Of course!

We decided that we’ll disregard the challenge rule; we’ll both be able to consult our MW Scrabble dictionaries while playing.

The last time we played was Sunday, and he won.

 

The game I lost!

 

On a completely different awesome note, I was thrilled when a reader found this commercial and sent it to me a few days ago. Some of you may remember that I’d been looking for that one Charleston Chew commercial from the 70’s. Thanks to Dirk, here it is!

 

 

Callaghan thinks it’s hilarious, too… even more than I do, in fact. Because he’s French.

 

English Language Colloquial Expressions 101.

Nothing says “I hate my brain” quite like trying to explain English language colloquialisms to a non-native-English-speaking person. I suck at it, anyway.

You could probably spend your whole life learning a second language if you’re after facility with all of its informal expressions. Callaghan made his latest joyful discovery the other day when he wanted to know what’s meant when someone finishes a sentence with, “if I do say so myself,” because, of course, there’s no translation for that phrase in French.

The first time he asked about it – I don’t remember what we were talking about – he cut me off mid-sentence.

“But YOU did it, so why did you say ‘if I do say so myself’?”

I had to stop and think about it, which I’ve never had to do, like, ever.

Expressions can’t be nailed down because there’s usually no logic in such statements, right? After a few false starts, I finally said something to the effect of: “You say ‘if I do say so myself’ in a self-congratulatory context, like when you’re giving yourself credit for something, but you want to be humble about it. It shows that you’re aware that you’re congratulating yourself. A more literal way to put it would be, ‘…if I may be so bold as to display pride in (whatever I did)’.”

By then, I felt like I was babbling, but I forged on to offer an example: “Not a bad job for my first time building an IKEA executive desk, if I do say so myself.”

I felt that this should suffice, but then Callaghan demanded finer-tuned clarification. I was unable to oblige due to the sensation of my brain being beaten with a pointy stick, pointy end first.

“I can’t think of how to explain it better,” I said. “You’ll hear it the next time I say it naturally in conversation.”

Since then, he’s been practicing the phrase with great zeal, inserting it where he sees fit:

“That’s a beautiful-looking moon, if I do say so myself!”

“Very funny.”

“Hahaha!”

I have a lot of patience, I thought. If I do say so myself.

Another time, he proclaimed, “Nice is the most heinous city in the world, if I do say so myself.”

Whereupon I was like,

 

Consult an online English-language resource.

Consult an online English-language resource.

 

Later, he assured me that he was just joking when he said “if I do say so myself” about the moon. He said he said it on purpose, to be funny.

Then he told me that he’d had the hardest time learning the whole “Did not!” / “Did too!” argument little kids get into in the backseat of the car while their exasperated parents sitting in the front try to make the road trip a fun time.

“‘Did not / Did too’ made absolutely no sense to me,” he said. “There’s nothing like that in French.”

I was glad I wasn’t involved in that one.