The Art Of Conversation:
Overheard at a Barbeque
Doug considered himself a man of the world, able to sidle into any conversation at a moment’s notice. He was trusted to cinch the deal, and come back home to Texas having made the company a cool billion dollars. That was why he was here canoodling with some of the executives at this informal barbeque.
“G’day mate. Name’s Pete. Nice to metecha.” Doug turned to shake hands with a strapping blond man still in his bathing suit.
“Yeah, I see you noticed my bathers. Didn’t have time to change before the barbie. Hey, have you met Jan – he’s from South Africa, but we don’t hold it against him!”
Jan nudged Pete and then extended his hand, “Ja, man – don’t mind Pete in his baggies, but he ran from a Johnny this arvie while surfing.” Noticing Doug’s puzzled frown Jan said, “Johnny – oh that’s a shark!”
Doug nervously laughed.
“Hey Doug,” Pete yelled as he moved away, “Have you tried a crackleberry – they’re ace!” Frantically Doug looked around for a platter of berries, but all he saw were eggs. “Yeah – these, they’re bonzo!” Pete exclaimed.
At that moment a petite brunette joined the threesome, and sidled up to Jan who beamed down at her. “Hey my china,” he said to Doug, “this is Karen, my wife.” She said a quick hello but her British accent was immediately apparent. “We met while Jan was finishing his post-grad work at Oxford,” she explained.
Doug’s attention was wrested from Karen when Pete asked, “So do you have any ankle-biters?”
“Well actually yes. I have two German Shep…” he was interrupted by a gale of laughter.
“No mate, we meant sprogs.” Karen interjected.
Laughter again filled the night air, and Pete whispered to Jan, “I guess he’s got a few Kangaroos loose in the top paddock, eh.”
Jan turned to Doug, “We meant pikkies. We have three, Carel, Sarel and Marie. They are at home with ouma right now; probably eating biltong and watching the idiot box.”
Feeling completely at sea in a sinking lifeboat, Doug just politely smiled at his hosts while he tried to figure out what had just transpired. “Never mind them,” Karen said. “They’re a bunch of galah’s.”
“Ah,” Doug mumbled, wondering what a galah was, and how it impacted him.
Karen continued, “Would you have a gander at my wors, I don’t know if it’s done or not.”
“I certainly won’t!” Doug recoiled in horror.
Jan chuckled as he walked over, “She wanted you to check her sausages. They still look a bit pink to me dear. Don’t forget, when they’re ready I want some dead horse on mine.”
“Righto,” Karen trilled.
“Hey Pete,” Jan yelled over the music, “Throw me a sarmie, would ya?”
“CHIPS” he shouted, as a sandwich hit Doug square in the face. “Man, I told you to duck just now, now you’ve got a mouthful of sarmie.”
“Chips? I thought you were offering me something to eat,” Doug protested, wiping tuna off his t-shirt, and licking his lips clean.
“Sorry brah!” Jan helped him clean the rest of the shirt. “man, these sarmies sure are lekker good! Hey Doug, you came alone tonight, do you have a main squeeze?”
Pete ambled over, “He means a sheila.”
“Um, no. At least, I don’t think so.”
“What you don’t know if you’ve got a doll or not? Sjoe, man; your love life must be in worse shape than Pete’s and that’s saying something!”
Sudden illumination! “Ah, a significant other! Yes. I’m married. Paula is back home in Texas.”
“Ah, a Texas man,” Jan interjected, “Do you drive a bakkie like we see on the telly?”
“He means a ute,” Pete explained.
“I’m sorry, you guys have completely lost me,” Doug confessed. After some interpretation from Karen, the light dawned, “Oh you mean a truck?”
“No mate, not a lorry, a bakkie.”
“Yeah, a ute!”
“Well in the USA we call them trucks,” Doug explained, feeling for the first time that he was on equal footing with these three.
“Hmmm, yanks and their idioms! Why can’t you speak normal English like the rest of us?” Pete grumbled as he moved away, followed in turn by Jan and with a final wave, Karen.
Why did God need the tower of Babel? Doug reflected. I didn’t understand a word of that and I thought we were all speaking English!
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