Do you sell butter? I asked in first one local shop, and then the next. Heads shake. I am looking for butter; where do you keep the butter? It is quite obvious that they are not sure what it is I am asking for. Willing but blank faces smile at me.
Ah, pasta – over there! A positive response, but one that doesn’t quite get me where I want to go. I understand the linguistic similarity, but: No, not pasta, butter!
Oh? And now the second assistant goes to the shelf and picks up a packet of raisins in little boxes. How can this be? What on earth does he think I have asked for, or what language does he think I am speaking?!
Butter! Bu-tter! (Butter is something quite ordinary in the US, I know it is! Everyone knows what butter is!!!)
Faces light up, we all laugh, and the refrigeration unit he points at reveals itself happily, to contain what I am looking for.
I tell him I’m from England, and that I have moved in round the corner. He looks very pleased: from England? That is very good! I didn’t ask where he is from, but the language he was speaking with his colleagues was very Indian. We have the potential to communicate in a common language, for sure, but we do sometimes have to resort to some sort of lowest common denominator if we want to get through to each other. I wonder if I will end the year using a whole new vocabulary or a mid-atlantic accent?