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May 18, 2006

"Chicken Legs! Chicken Legs!"

A couple of times this week I have been down in town working at the internet cafe, so have met Claire coming from her bus from work. One night we were umming and erring about waiting for the bus or hopping in a cab back to the house, when we saw that a bus was waiting.

We made a quick dash for it, when Claire suddenly asked, "Have you got any tickets?".

I only had one, so I stopped at the little booth by the side of the bus stop to get an extra one. It was a bit of a struggle to make myself understood, and by the time I'd finished the transaction, I turned round and to my bemusement watched the bus pull away, only to see Claire looking even more bemused out of the window.

It turns out that when she asked "Have you got any tickets?" she had just meant it as a polite enquiry, not as I had interpreted it, a request for me to provide tickets, and had got on the bus not noticing that I had stopped to buy some.

As luck would have it, I started running somewhat optimistically after the bus, when another couple hailed it a little further down the road, and I was able to hop on. Claire and I laughed all the way until it was time to get off.

As we stood waiting to cross the road to home, Claire asked me: "What took you so long to buy the ticket anywhere?"

"Oh, the lady didn't understand when I asked for a seventy-five cent ticket."

"What did you ask for?"

"A seventy-five cent ticket"

"So what did you say?"

"Seventy-five cents?"

"But, how did you say it"

I was beginning to get a little vexed at this point

"I said seventy-five cents"

"Oh", said Claire, "you said it in English?"

"Yes. And the lady at the kiosk in the evening is a different one and her English isn't so good."

"So what did you do?"

"Well, I sort of pointed at them and said Κοκκίνο, Κοκκίνο" (which means "Red, red" in Greek)

"Why Κόκκινο, Κόκκινο?"

"Well", I said, slowly explaining as if to a child, "the tickets are red, and I don't know the word for seventy-five"

"But you know the words for 'seven' and 'five'?"

"I guess so. Yes. That might have been easier"

Then a thought occured to me. Pronunciation is very important in Greek - one of our books about learning Greek cautions you against confusing children and cutlets on the very first page - παιδάκι and παϊδάκι. Did you spot the difference?

"How do you say Κοκκ-ÍΝ-ο?"

"ΚÓΚΚ-ιν-ο" said Claire.

"So, basically, I probably just shouted something like 'Chicken legs! Chicken legs!' at her"

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