I stumbled upon this wonderful essay, “Sorry, but do you speak English?” by Terry Eagleton in last weekend’s
“Wall Street Journal.”
He’s just published “Across the Pond: An Englishman’s View of America”, a humorous look at America from an Englishman’s point of view. He writes:
“Not long ago, an American friend was driving rather too vigorously in the west of Ireland when he was pulled over by a Gard (police officer). “What would happen if you were to run into Mr. Fog?” the Gard inquired gruffly in his thick Irish brogue. Stung by this patronizing query, my friend replied with heavy sarcasm, “Well, I guess I’d put Mr. Foot on Mr. Brake.” Whereupon the officer stared at him rather strangely and growled, “I said mist or fog.”
My friend, as it happens, is an anthropologist. For one enthralling moment he thought he had stumbled upon a tribe in the west of Ireland which personified aspects of the weather, speaking of Mrs. Hailstorm, Master Sunshine and so on. But it was just another case of international miscommunication.