Communication is key to everything. Every driver knows that intersections are risky, but the crossroad of language and culture is especially prone to accidents. Need proof? I pick up my new Jordanian eyeglasses and the doc hands me its case (see above): I’m silenced. Go home puzzled, post the image on Facebook and ask “What is he telling me?” A friend instantly advises, “Your vision in f***ed!”
From Crust toothpaste in Saudi Arabia to f***ed up vision in Jordan, humor can act as a universal grease to help ease awkward situations, and the Middle East bursts with communication comedy. Check out this sign in the newly opened Queen Alia International Airport terminal:
I started to see it, years back, at a pool. Eager to make the our transition from Dublin a happy one, the husband signed us up at a family sports club in Amman. Turned out to be a Christian club, and as it was Ramadan, his choice had a non-spiritual benefit: we could buy lunch.
Everyone was friendly and spoke English, but only to us. We swam and sunbathed and sort of guiltily ate our salads to the background singsong of Arabic chat. Our deeply ingrained wise-guy DNA helped us cope with our new-to-town awkwardness. We started reading T-shirts.
One shouted, “New York City: Get Sportie!” A Yankees shirt was spelled with three “e’s”. The tiger-striped “Pricetown University” sent me underwater to muffle laughter.
Disclaimer: it’s not just Amman. Americans are saturated with Chinese imports whose monstrous misspellings and horrendous translations provide a lifetime of old school laffs. Here in Jordan, I hope someday to speak Arabic as well as these invisible merchants speak English, but you gotta love them for the comedic relief.
We walk the old medina with visiting family. Amongst tabletops cluttered with plumbing fixtures and clip-on hair chrysanthemums, I spot a neatly stacked pile of men’s undies by designer Calvn Klain. Buy a dozen as goofy Christmas stocking stuffers.
There’s not enough space in this story to capture all the typo t-shirts.
My kid hops off the school bus and explodes through the apartment door, shows me a snap on her phone: an automotive store (with mathematical ambitions?) on her school route named “The Latest Addition”.
I repeat, it’s not just Jordan.
Green Prophet reader Sa’ada once left a comment about shopping in Saudi. She stumbled across a tube of toothpaste, the font and colors exactly copied from big brand “Crest”. Says Sa’ada, “Well, they had to change something, right? But unfortunately they chose to swap out the ‘e’ for a ‘u’. Crust toothpaste! Who wouldn’t want to brush their teeth with ‘Crust’?”
“Miss Communication” isn’t a beauty pageant queen, but she makes for some stunningly gorgeous belly laughs. As Shakespeare said, “A rows buy any udder name wood smell as suite.”
Image of CRUST by Jean Bradbury, all others by author.