Despots, Linguistics and Richard Engel

So, yesterday Mr. GG and I are on the return leg of a trip to Boise, and he’s driving, and I am in the passenger seat, fiddling with the toggle switch that provides me with heated seating. Mr. GG, true to his nature, is in the throes of a soliloquy on national laws about Historic Preservation, and somewhere between Section 106 and Section 110, my eyes drift closed and I start mulling over the situation in Egypt.

My thoughts are not deep – I am considering the sound of Hosni Mubarak’s name. I break it up into syllables and realize you could pronounce it “Hose-Knee Moo-Bark”. Huh. An article of clothing that covers a limb, and the noise two animals make. I try making up other names for tyrants and dictators based on this formula. How about “Sock-Foot Neigh-meow”? You’d have to spell it something like Sogfut NyayMiao. Or maybe “Sleeve-Arm Baa-Quack”? That might be an Irish-Muslim guy – Slievarm Bakwaaq.

This train of though gets derailed into the linguistics course Mr. GG took in grad school, especially the Shoshoni language part of it. I learned a couple of phrases in Shoshoni at that time, much like I learned where the zygomatic arch is, when he took paleo-osteology (FYI, it’s that protruding cheekbone where most cats love being scritched).

That reminds me that I know a few phrases in Greek, some fragments of Irish-Gaelic from a “Learn to Speak Gaelic” 33 rpm vinyl record I had 30 years ago, and my long forgotten courses in Spanish and French. The only time I successfully communicated in a foreign tongue on foreign soil, I was 19, in Brussels, at a train station, panicked at the thought of missing our train to the English channel, because the guy at the baggage check wouldn’t give us our suitcases and knapsacks. In a desperate spurt of irritation, adrenaline and French, I told the guy to give us our luggage right now, or we would miss our train. It was grammatically perfect, and apparently understandable, because he forked over the bags, and we got where we were going.

Mr. GG is still droning on, even though I have ceased making encouraging murmurs, and I go back to thinking about Egypt and Richard Engel. Man, that guy gets around. How does he always get that little curl on his forehead? Do you suppose he carries hair product in one of the pockets on his flack jackets? And right before they start filming, he spritzes that wayward curl to a shellacked perfect comma? Richard Engel is this decades’ Wolf Blitzer. I notice he has been losing some objectivity in Cairo, maybe because (as they keep telling us) he lived there for 4 years. Last night he called the pro-Mubarak demonstrators “goon squads”. Actually, I appreciated that, since the other channels were tip-toeing around the subject – with a lot of “alleged Mubarak police force”, “unemployed young men” (i.e., thugs), and speculations like “my goodness, how did they get those screened t-shirts with Mubarak’s photo, and afford the bus caravans that delivered them to the square?” Huh, at least Richard is showing some genuine emotion tonight, instead of his usual calculated indignation. I wonder if he has a girlfriend. Maybe she is the one who buys him hair product. Nah, he probably has a girl in every port… I mean outpost of civilization. They are probably beautiful native undercover agents who help him find picturesque natives to interview. Somewhere in my musings about Richard, his hair, and his social life, I fall asleep, until Mr. GG wakes me up by dramatically swerving around a monster truck on Interstate 84. It is my turn to drive anyway, so I have some coffee and hit the cruise control. Now it is Mr. GG’s turn to fall asleep, and I segue into alertness, aware that I really appreciate heated seats, my bestie sent us home with an entire New York cheese-basil pizza, and we will make it home in time to give Fuzzbutt her thyroid meds and Prozac. My sense of wellbeing rockets. God Bless America.


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