Today I fantasized about picking up the phone and instructing my friend Vincent to drop me an email when he wants to translate things. I didn’t do it though because I hate talking on the phone – there is only one person I ever talk to on the phone with but we have a special reason for that which transcends my general aversion. So emails, yes. On translations and things. Yes. The topic today was new idioms in the Danish language that are produced, or rather invented by immigrants. As immigrants often blend not only their own mother tongues with Danish, but also pepper the new cocktail with loan words from English, one can imagine the hodge-podge. In Denmark, if one wants to experience the making of such new linguistic expressions ad hoc, all one needs to do is parade at the Central Station in Copenhagen. Or wait for coffee in some line, which is what Vincent did when he heard the following pronouncement uttered by a boy of Arabic descent: “Wallah, jeg knepper den burger, eller noget” – (ad literam: "wallah, I fuck that burger, or something.”)

Now, this is all very nice, if only we would not have different possible interpretations of what such an utterance might translate as into 'normal' Danish. For, while Vincent clearly understood one thing, the way he went dissecting the sentence into lexia, I understood another thing all together. Particularly the middle of the sentence posed a challenge. In Vincent’s argument, induced by bafflement, “I fuck that burger, or something” has to do with the man’s hunger. Going via English, and turning the expression into a present progressive tense, he placed an intention where, at least in my opinion, there was none intended. Said Vincent, “if we say ‘I’m fucking, dot, dot, dot, we can make the inference that what the man means to say is this: I’m fucking hungry.” This is the point where I went: huh? I couldn’t follow the argument, as there was no evidence for such an intention whatsoever – to express hunger in the ellipsis – on the part of the one who made the utterance. Speaking grammatically correct, of course, in the sentence, “I’m fucking … hungry”, ‘fucking’ is not even a verb in the progressive tense but a modifier of the adjective ‘hungry,’ the adjective’s predicate.

In my opinion, drawing on cultural implication rather than the literalization of grammar would have given us more precise results on how to take the Arab’s expression. Taken within such a context, the sentence, “jeg knepper den burger” reveals a close proximity to a desire to sexualize the burger. Not only is fucking the burger a metaphor for eating it, or rather ‘showing’ it – the burger, that is – what a man can do to it, but it also functions metonymically. The burger itself stands for a whole range of women whom some men can’t wait to get their fingers in(to) or teeth as the case may be, or whatever. Associatively, following this thought: ‘burger, juicy, yummy, if I’m not gonna lick it, I’m so going to fuck it, man, … or whatever,’ yields a more plausible interpretation than the one offered by Vincent. Even the apposition “eller noget” suggests a way of making complicit the sexualization of things with a counter-effect, namely that of desexualizing things via showing indifference, as a result of possible defeat, as in, ‘the desire is there, but ah, well, you don’t always get it.’, or indifference à la, ‘ah, well, we could just as well do something else.' Here, if the latter is the case, then hunger is definitely not it. If we keep it really simple, then we can also just say that the Arabs in Denmark don't have a nuanced sense of grammar, and for the most part don't know how to use the future tense in Danish. Simply put, the sentence means this: "I'm going to fuck this burger, (... as fast as I fuck a woman) or do something else with it.)

Vincent started with doing statistics on vocabularies. I love it when he sticks to numbers. There I totally lose it, as I’ve never been good at arithmetic. On the other hand, when I think of it, I rather also like it that he takes the plunge into territories that require more boldness.


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