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mkonturWhen I was in college, my circle of friends and I played the obligatory college pranks along the lines of the now well-established genre of college humor, except that, being of a humanistic bent, ours were perhaps a bit more intellectual than the average frat-boy prank. One example: we noticed that that the help at a certain local junk-food outlet had apparently been instructed to ask the customers if they wanted ketchup on their hamburgers if they failed to mention it explicitly in their list of desired fixings. So, for instance, if a customer said “I’ll take a quarter-pounder cheeseburger with lettuce, pickles, tomato and mustard to go”, the girl or boy taking the order would ask, “Did you want ketchup on that, too?” If you left any other ingredient off your list of fixings, it was simply assumed you didn’t want it, no further questions asked. But ketchup must have been such a standard, that if you didn’t order it, it was thought more likely that you’d either forgotten it or simply taken its inclusion for granted. Oddly enough, this didn’t apply to mustard or any of the other standard ingredients. As to why the waiter/waitress put the question in the past tense, I can only venture the hypothesis that this was a sort of last-ditch attempt to revive the formal subjunctive – in other words, they must have thought it sounded more polite than the downright accusatory “Do you want ketchup on that?” Once anyone’s behavior in a college town becomes predictable, they become sitting ducks for pranksters. Ours went like this:

The first young man enters the establishment, seemingly alone, and orders a burger, perhaps a cheeseburger, with a long list of fixings, omitting the ketchup: “I’d like a medium hamburger with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions – oh, and mustard.” “Did you want ketchup on that.” A look of disgust distorts the customer’s features. He replies, somewhat melodramatically, “I despise ketchup!” The cashier is taken aback, but dutifully hides her own consternation. The next young man comes in, also seemingly alone, and orders his burger in turn, listing a number of fixings, but without any mention of ketchup. Once again, the waitress asks the required question. A look of utter revulsion comes over the customer. He replies, as if offended by the mere suggestion, “Oh, I loathe ketchup!” The waitress is by now becoming visibly uneasy, maybe even beginning to suspect that foul play of some sort is involved. The customer picks up his order and retires with it to a solitary table, ignoring the first customer. To all appearances, they are strangers to one another. Then comes the third customer and the procedure is repeated with negligible variations. The waitress poses the fatal question, professional composure forcing her to hide whatever apprehension may or may not be creeping up on her now. The customer looks as if he’s going to be sick right then and there over the cash register, thoroughly revolted by the very mention of the vile, red, oozing epicurean’s nightmare. He recovers enough to inform the hapless cashier that, “Ketchup makes me want to vomit!” By now, even the most obtuse fast-food worker knows that she’s been made the victim of a conspiracy – yet another college prank – primarily, of course, thanks to the bad acting of our leading man. She feels confident enough to drop all pretense of professional etiquette, pounds on the counter and yells in exasperation – but also some relief – to the assembled plotters, “Guuuys! Come – ON!” Snickering, bewilderment from the one or two other diners present, and a quick exit with one or two flirtatious looks back at a now quite unprofessionally but understandably aggravated waitress/cashier.

I think only the testosterone-charged young provincial male will be able to relate properly to the feeling of triumph that he takes away from having successfully aggravated a fellow human being. Well, this was in Kansas, you know.

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mkontur On the way to school recently, at a loss for any better story to tell the kids, I regurgitated an old spy story from World War II that had caught my fancy while I browsed the internet.  Having filtered it through their 7-year-old memories, they summarized it to their mother the next day, reporting that the Americans had saved the entire world by freezing bums in boxes full of ice and casting them adrift in the ocean from submarines.  Lena was shocked that I would tell the kids such tales – and even more shocked, I’d guess, at an unexpected jingoistic streak in my character.  I repeated the story in summarized form to put her mind at rest, and she asked me to put it in writing.  There’s little point in my repeating it yet again in my own words, because in fact, I known nothing more about it than what I got from the internet article.  So I’ll copy that here, with acknowledgments and thanks to the original site, Damninteresting.  And damn interesting it is:

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zkontur

После встречи с нацистами показалось важным рассказать детям, кто это такие. Ну, и о 2й мировой войне заодно. То есть о Великой Отечественной.

Тут они и говорят: все не так было!

В кратком изложении (как они поняли): “американы” мир спасли. Они нашли “одного мертвого”, побрили, одели, привязали к руке чемодан с “фальшивыми планами”, положили в подлодку, в лёд, чтобы не разлагался. Немцы нашли “мертвого” – и поверили “фальшивым планам”. И тогда “американы” немцев победили.

?!

Требую разъяснений!

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zkonturМТ нашел в интернете фото: арабский митинг, виден плакат: “Kill juice”.
Долго не мог понять, откуда у них ненависть такая к соку. Потом дошло: орфография хромает. Имели в виду jews.

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MTIn one of the recent scripts I translated for Deutsche Welle I encountered a rather striking name for one of the interview partners: Truly Seedie. Timur, the German journalist, had obviously been had. She was a woman who poured out her sob-story of losing her home to the subprime mortgage crisis. I elected not to inform him of the prank, since the name was not to be heard in the commentary nor to be seen in any on-screen inserts. But she seemed like such a nice lady to have perpetrated such a potentially damaging hoax on poor Timur. She was joining a long-standing tradition of practical joking by inventing names disguised cleverly enough to slip past any censorious editors unnoticed and appear in print, where it might provoke guffaws from somewhat more alert viewers or readers. Some weeks ago, for example, a man appeared on the news in Florida, tagged with the name C. L. Itoris. I’ve never understood why, aside from the obvious grammatical difficulties, Germans hardly play with words and have virtually no sense of puns and word-plays when they run across them. I could count on the fingers of one hand all the really good word-plays I’ve seen or heard in 26 years of living in Germany.

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ET
1. Лавры Хрущева

2. product placement

3. Ты говорил: появилась компьютерная игра, где Б. забрасывают ботинками…

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exauguration

MT

Just when it appeared that Bush would exit the world political stage quietly, calmly, serene in the pretense that he had actually made the world a safer place with his wars at home and abroad – that his legacy was not necessarily that of the worst chief executive that the United States has ever had, one man had the courage to express what almost the entire world feels – at almost the last minute.
On December 14th, at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraqi reporter Muntazer al-Zaidi hurled both his shoes at President Bush. As usual in such circumstances, he was immediately wrestled to the ground by security personnel. Almost as instantaneously, he became a folk hero the world over, from Baghdad to Baltimore and from Brazil to Istanbul. Among the blizzard of media reports and comments, most of them gloating or gleeful, was a commentary in the New York Times that mentioned a Turkish shoe manufacturer who claimed to recognize the shoes thrown as one of his own models. Others had also come forward to take responsibility for the offending footwear, but this manufacturer had good circumstantial evidence to back up his claim. He had, after all, sold some 40,000 pair of this model in Iraq, and the buyers were typically of the educated, professional class, many of them from the media and Western-oriented. The material evidence had unfortunately been demolished by demolition experts zealously seeking a bomb à la John Reid, or perhaps simply revenge denied them by due process against the living perpetrator.

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