Let’s talk like people

On Mark Rosenfelder's Zompist web site I found a series of cultural guides named How to tell if you're ‹nationality. All of the entries are simultaneously funny and insightful, such as this one from Turkey:

A company can fire just about anybody it wants. But it will also hire anybody.

For some reason, my favorite is this one from the Polish entry:

When you negotiate, you are polite, of course, but it's only good business to 'play hardball'. You don't say what you mean, you pretend not to know many things, but you surely never lie. You know the other side does the same thing, and they know you know. Many people are tired of it, so they start talking normally. You say "let's talk like people" then.

I like how the Poles understand that it's all an act, and they have a code for saying, "This is stupid."

While you're there, you should also check out The Zompist Phrasebook, the absolutely worst phrasebook you'll ever find that's still hilarious.

Comments (22)
  1. Tom says:

    That Zompist Phrasebook is awesome.  Some of the phrases from the Special Internet Section could apply here. :)

  2. Nathan says:

    (at least the first one) I expect to see you dropping at the Seattle film-fest…

  3. jeffdav says:

    The phrasebook is very funny.  I’ll be taking a hard copy with me to Paris.  I can’t wait to tell them all how I speak French.

  4. KJK::Hyperion says:

    Ha, what a coincidence, just yesterday I was checking out http://www.zompist.com/robot.htm

  5. Jeffrey says:

    "The absolutely worst phrasebook you’ll ever find that’s still hilarious"?

    No, I think that has to be English As She Is Spoke:


  6. Cody says:

    Sorry to bring a Polish joke to the fight but from the Polish page:

    [You know how basketball … [is] played. … You have no idea how basketball … [is] played.]

    [That second “basketball” was clearly a typo for “baseball”. Maybe Zompist needs its own Nitpicker’s Ccorner. -Raymond]
  7. Gwyn says:

    My hovercraft is full of eels

  8. Brian says:

    My favorite:

    Impressed as I am with the New Wave in cinematography, I must say that this particular film seemed both pretentious and unsatisfying, and that the director’s imagery, though compelling, is no substitute for a true cinematic message.

    Der Film ist Scheiße.

  9. mike says:

    man the australian version of that was absolutely terrible.

  10. KJK::Hyperion says:

    "I admire you above all for your purity of spirit and your appreciation of the arts.

    * J’aimerais bien une petite gâterie, ma jolie.

    * Si quieres chuparme el pito, no voy a protestar.

    * Willst du mir nicht mal einen blasen, Schätzchen?"

    I had no idea some colloquialisms were so strikingly similar across languages

  11. Jivlain says:

    mike’s right. That "Aussie" version was awful.

    Memo to self: stop typing passwords in URL box.

    Memo to Raymond: Come up with fancy Javascript to catch my text input in the URL field and AJAX it to server. You’d get all my passwords :p

  12. Centaur says:

    I understand that part of the phrases in the Phrasebook are intentionally misleading, but some of those that aren’t, suffer from horrible mistranslation into Russian.

  13. Walter says:

    I love Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch English-Deutsch: http://deuceofclubs.com/books/003lang.htm

  14. dmz says:

    I understand that part of the phrases in the Phrasebook are intentionally misleading

    I don’t know… Being Pole I sadly agree with, like, 99,99% of the "facts" in Polish entry.

    Anyway, it took me a while to translate "Let’s talk like people" back into Polish. If I’m correct, this is "Porozmawiajmy jak ludzie" (more "human beings" than "people", never the less the original entry is great). It is used by one one side when he/she thinks that he/she will not get even the acceptable minimum. Or something like that.

  15. Cheong says:

    I guess I’m not Chinese after all: I don’t know how to use a slingshot, and I get only 3-days holiday in Spring Festival. :O

  16. I think Zompist got it around 90% right about Turkey.

    ‘everyone is a millionaire’ – That has changed when Turkey dropped 6 zeros from her currency a couple of years ago.

    ‘you’ll have a Christmas tree and will exchange gifts– on New Year’s Eve’ – So true.

  17. victor says:

    It’s true the phrasebook is all you need to go around the globe. However, the Spanish version doesn’t make justice to the effective messages in English… :-(

  18. Dom says:

    Lies, all lies! ;-)

    Seriously, spent 24 years of my life in Poland and this is the first time I saw "let’s talk like people" phrase. We do say "let’s talk like grown ups", but that’s used if you intend to insult your "oponent". We do say "stop this BS". Lets talk like people? Never.

  19. Medinoc says:

    Well, the French version fits French people perfectly.

    The "anti-translations" in the phrasebook are funny, but I agree Centaur, some of the "normal" translations look a bit strange.

  20. Justin says:

    The swedes are very observant.

    "If a man has sex with another man, he is probably a homosexual, otherwise he would not enjoy it at all."

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