Friday, June 24, 2005

The romance of the unintelligible

There is a certain magic in unknown languages that makes any overheard conversation take on added weight. Each unintelligible exchange has a mystery to it that it would not have if you knew what they were talking about.

The same romance seems to hold true for non-English speakers. The streets of Amalfi are full of shirts with captions like “touch me” and “disco king,” worn by people who speak little enough English to wear these articles with no apparent shame.

A more difficult obstacle for American tourists here is that local restaurants play really, really bad 70’s music. The restaurateurs surely have no idea how painful it is for their English-speaking guests to listen to a 30 minute “Best of Barry Manilow” tape repeat 4 times during the course of a two hour dinner. As difficult as it is to imagine, it must sound much better if you don’t understand the words.