Monday, April 30, 2012

Pay Tay

Since I started learning Russian, Alla began speaking to me in a mélange of Russian and English. Any given sentence can be in either language, or more commonly in both languages. This presents me with new puzzles in comprehension every day.

Today’s best puzzle came as we walked home from Jazz Fest. We were talking about our favorite acts of the day, and Alla said she really liked that Pay Tay guy. I didn’t know what she meant. She persisted, sure that I knew this guy. “I don’t understand,” I told her. “What do you mean, Pay Tay.”

“I think that’s his name,” she replied.

“Pay Tay.” I couldn’t make much sense of these sounds. Perhaps she was speaking Russian, and she meant “П.Т.” These two letters from the Russian alphabet correspond to P.T. in the Latin alphabet, and that’s how they are pronounced. So I joked with her a little, and asked (in English) if maybe she was thinking of P.T. Barnum. “Yes,” she replied in Russian, “Perhaps.”

I explained to her that P.T. Barnum is long gone, and he wasn’t known for playing jazz.

Finally we stopped under a street lamp so she could read today’s lineup and figure out Pay Tay’s last name. It’s Fountain. She had gone to hear Pete Fountain’s show while I listened elsewhere to Ramsey Lewis and his Electric Band.

Problem solved. Communication complete.

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