Learning it was puppy love provided only temporary relief11 february 2013, 14:02
I was wandering around the Khan Shatyr shopping center the other day when I bumped into my bright-eyed friend Sabrina.
When she saw me across the central atrium, the half-Ingush, half-Russian beauty came rushing up with an excited look on her face.
And the first words out of her mouth were: “I have a new poopie!”
If Sabrina had been 2 years old, her statement would not have unnerved me. We all know how excited babies get about certain orifices in their body, and the things those orifices produce.
But Sabrina isn’t 2 – she’s 25.
So the first conclusion I reached was that I’d misunderstood her.
Trying to act nonchalant about her gritty message, I replied: “I’m sorry, Sabrina – it’s noisy in here. I didn’t hear you well. What were you trying to say?”
She repeated what she’d said before, this time slowly and very distinctly: “I have a new poopie!”
At that point, I knew that the problem wasn’t that I’d misheard her. It was that Sabrina, who is still learning English, was mispronouncing a word.
And what a beaut of a mispronunciation! How was I going to find out what she was really trying to say, and let her know the correct pronunciation, without embarrassing her?
If she knew the meaning of the word she’d mispronounced, I was afraid she’d light her English-Russian dictionary on fire and jump onto the flames.
The bemused look that crossed my face as I thought about the way to handle the situation betrayed my attempt to continue looking nonchalant.
She thought the problem was that I was still not understanding her.
So she pulled out her mobile, flicked through it until she found a photo, then thrust it into my hands, beaming.
The image was of a baby shar pei, one of those adorable Chinese dogs with the wrinkled faces.
Aha! She was trying to say “puppy,” not “poopie.” As in: “I have a new puppy!”
Part 1 of my dilemma was solved. I now knew what she had been trying to say.
Now all I had to do was correct her pronunciation in a way that prevented her from learning what her mispronunciation had really meant.
I decided that repetition was the key.
“Oh, what a cute puppy!” I exclaimed, drawing out the word “puppy” to emphasize the correct pronunciation.
Then I added: “I love puppies. And especially shar pei puppies.”
“I love poopies, too,” she enthused. “And I’ve always wanted a shar pei poopie.”
Repetition had yet to work, I could see. But I wasn’t dismissing the concept yet.
“I’ve heard shar pei puppies are expensive,” I continued. “How much did your puppy cost?”
“Usually shar pei poopies ARE expensive,” she said. “But my sister knows a breeder. I got my poopie for only 30,000 tenge.”
At that juncture it was clear to me that repetition wasn’t the answer.
And there was no way I was going to correct her directly by saying: “Uh, Sabrina, the correct pronunciation is ‘puppy,’ not ‘poopie.’”
There was too much danger she’d respond with: “Really? What’s the meaning of the word I misused?”
She was much too happy about the puppy for me to ruin her day by informing her that what she’d really conjured up in her message to me was not a dog but a substance that dogs produce.
So I let it go. I wished her good luck with the puppy and bid her adieu, saying I needed to rush to an appointment.
As I was walking away, I had a discomfiting thought.
What if she rushed up to a guy she was hoping for a romance with and gushed: “Would you like to see my poopie?”
The thought was too much to bear. I quickly erased it from my mind and kept walking.