Japanese Kids Say the Darndest Things, Part 1
This is a smattering of things the kids have hit me with at some point in the classroom. Most are in English, or at least their best attempt. All are completely faithful to the kids’ statements.
During a quiz game, I asked, “What’s the name of the famous bridge in San Francisco?” They always guess “Rainbow Bridge” because that’s the name of the famous bridge in Tokyo. Um, no. Not quite.
One boy completely surprised me though. He slowly and timidly approached me, looked up, and hit me with his guess: Gay Bridge.
There’s no way he could’ve said that.
I leaned in closer and asked him to repeat it. Sure enough, “Gay Bridge.”
There have been very few times in my life when I laughed so hard I couldn’t stand, but this was one of them. My Japanese teacher asked me what was wrong, and when I finally managed to spit it out he joined me on the floor. He later explained it to the students and then the teachers’ room. All were KO’d by that kid’s answer.
If you think about it though, he wasn’t too wrong.
Another time we were playing a Thanksgiving quiz game (we play a lot of quiz games) and I asked, “What did the Pilgrims eat for the first Thanksgiving?” One boy enthusiastically raised his hand and said “Oh, I know, I know! Indians.”
The pilgrims may have screwed the Indians out of their land but I’d like to think at least we didn’t eat them.
One day after class, a ninensei girl walked up to me, and out of nowhere proudly exclaimed, “Spread your legs!” Perhaps mistaking the look of shocked bewilderment on my face for misunderstanding, she stuck her chest out and repeated it even louder, “Spread your legs!”
She then produced a book of (apparently) colloquial English expressions. The phrase came from the police section. You know, “Get out of the car! Against the wall! Spread your legs!” She just randomly selected “Spread your legs!” and decided to try it on me.
Put yourself in my shoes, though. Imagine suddenly a 14-year-old Japanese girl walks up to you and just shouts out, “Spread your legs!” How would you react? If she’d whipped out a gun or a samurai sword or even a small woodland animal I could have dealt with it, but “Spread your legs!” left me completely incapacitated.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the teacher leaned over and asked, “Oh, is it correct?” I somehow pulled myself back together and said, “No, it’s not. Well, technically I suppose it is, but… just no.” Of course she asked, “Why?” Oh Lord.
This was not in the job description.
I don’t remember what excuse I made, but it was at least Oscar-worthy. I did make sure to warn that girl never to use that in America should she ever go.
Naturally, my nickname for this girl is now “Spread Your Legs.”