Friday, 29 April 2011

This Is Not A Pipe

The company I work for is international. We have a lot of different cultures represented in our workplace, and almost everyone speaks at least two or three languages, if not more. This can be incredibly useful and incredibly embarrassing as I found out to my consternation on a dress down day a couple of years ago. I had just bought some new tshirts from Threadless and I was excited to test them out on my work colleagues. On this particular day, I had innocently chosen a green tshirt with a green pipe on it (the kind from Mario games) which had a fireflower coming out of the top. Underneath it said "ceci n'est pas une pipe" (translated: "this is not a pipe"). I considered this the height of cool. Who wouldn't want a shirt that managed to be both a video game reference and an art reference all in one? After all, many of us have experienced the feeling of exasperation when your little on-screen Mario jumps onto one of these, only to be destroyed instantly by something vicious coming out of it with no warning whatsoever. My geekery knows no bounds.

So when I met my French friend for lunch that day, I expected him to congratulate me on my excellent choice of apparel. I did not expect him to glance at my tshirt, double-take and then start laughing hysterically.

Me: Is it that funny? Really?

Him: No, it's just....I don't know how to tell you this.

Me: Oh god, what?

Him: Well, it's slang. Translated literally it means "this is not a blowjob".

Me: Are you telling me that I've been walking around all day, at work, wearing something that has a sex joke on it?! In a language people around here can read?

Him: Um...Yes.

Me: Oh. Crapmaster.

This leads me, in a very roundabout way, to something that was brought to my attention the other day. I have referred to myself throughout this blog as Otternator, or occasionally as an actual otter (complete with bright, shiny eyes, magnificently Biebered pelt and a varied range of expressions) and no one had really questioned it much so it never occurred to me that I should have taken the time to explain myself a little. 45 posts, people. I am rather embarrassed. I do apologise.

Really, the story is quite simple. An ex and I had a running joke that she looked like a gangling, runty pony (yes, I said runty) and so it naturally followed that we tried to decide which animal I looked/acted most like. The otter is small. It can sometimes look rather sweet and cuddly, but it will in all likelihood bite your motherflipping hand off if given half a chance. The otter enjoys rolling about on the ground, romping with other otters (which I think you'll agree, is otterly delightful - the pun potential with this animal is truly amazing) and eating fish. It has moments like this:

Wendy watched the sunset in a deep, philosophical silence. 
Screw him. He could have the kids. She'd take the Kawasaki.
(photo via Drew Avery at

But it also has moments like this.

              "Ma! MA! Derek won't let me watch America's Next Top Model! MA! MAAAAA!"
 (photo via Yasaiman at

In short, I am really quite ottery. I look innocent when I'm not, I'll fight you for some meat and I move much better in water than I do on land. Thus it was decided, and I have enjoyed otter-related products/jokes/stories and so forth ever since.


  1. Oh, the perils of translation!
    My personal favourite is this... To set the scene, my friend and I spent Easter in Germany. Our German was... enthusiastic. And we'd had a bit to drink, at the tender age of 17. My friend lost her chocolate-Easter treat, and using our best German, we started running around looking for it, telling people "Ich habe mein Ei verloren". Thinking this meant "I have lost my egg". We thought we were being very funny, and certainly were getting lots of laughs from our group and complete strangers.
    Finally someone stopped us, to point out we were actually telling everyone we'd lost our penis.

    Now why, WHY, would "egg" be slang for penis in any language?

  2. Dude, why WOULD egg be slang for penis. That's just rude.

  3. Ha, that's brilliant! I love it :)