On What Doesn’t Need To Be Said

Yesterday, John and I were at a BBQ hosted by his Ultimate Frisbee game, and the intriguing topic of foreign phrase books came up. It began when Dan*, who is Korean-American, and his partner Jill*, who is European-American, were discussing the possibility that Jill might learn to speak Korean.

*Names have been changed, because I cannot remember these people’s names. Oof!

Dan: We started with the alphabet, because of course it’s different.

Jill: Yeah, and I said to him, ‘Rather than have me learn an entirely new alphabet, why don’t you just teach me to say, “I’m good enough for your son.”‘


Then someone (Kaoki?) mentioned that his friend has a foreign phrase book with highly unusual content, including the phrase, “You’re just using me for sex.” And he said, “You know, if you’re using a foreign phrase book to learn how to say that, isn’t it already obvious?”


John: That would be an excellent phrase book: All of the things you don’t need to say, because it’s already obvious that they’re true.

Me: Yeah, totally. Except — what’s in that book?

John: [Blinks.]

Me: [Blinks.]

Honestly, what is in that book? Comments about the weather? Things you’ve already said a million times? It’s pretty site-specific, I think — and by “site” I mean time, place, and people involved.

While John and I were contemplating this linguistic meme, Paul mentioned that he knows of a “phrase book” which is actually just a picture book. If you need a bus, you open to the picture of a bus.

John: I want that book with hand gestures. Like, what if you need milk? [Bows his head and points his fingers to make horns.]

Paul: What is that, a cow?

Me: I would never have known what that was.

Matthew: It’s the devil! Take me to your devil!

4 Responses to “On What Doesn’t Need To Be Said”

  1. Ted says:

    Of course, a phrase book of things that don’t need to be said would be redundant. Perhaps all the pages should be blank.

  2. admin says:

    Wow, that’s so meta. Or Borges. “That’s so Borges.” There’s a phrase you don’t hear every day. Anyway, good point.

  3. Carey says:

    “I am still learning this language. I only know a few phrases.”

    “Like what?”

    “Like…’I only know a few phrases.’ And ‘I speak woodenly.'”

    “You do?”

    “Yes. I speak woodenly. My conversations are quite limited.”

    “They are?”

    “Yes. I am still learning this language.”

  4. admin says:

    I love it, Carey. It’s so Beckett! Or maybe Mamet?

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