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Puppet Translator

Dear Rudy,

Your recent program featuring funny stories about language misunderstandings and the bit on puppets reminded me of an experience we had in Belgium.

About fifteen years ago, my husband took a six-month sabbatical leave from teaching at a US university to spend time in his native country of Denmark. Toward the end of our visit, we borrowed the in-laws' car and drove south. Taking our two sons, then 5 and 9 years old, we stopped along the way at universities where my husband delivered lectures. This was a wonderful way to go, as the universities usually provided guest housing and paid a small honorarium.

We were on our way home to Copenhagen, having made a big loop that included stops in Germany, Italy, France and Belgium. On our last night in Belgium, we found that we were running a positive ledger, so we went to a restaurant that was a bit fancier than usual.

Our waiter was lovely, but spoke Flemish and only a little English. We tried every trick in the book to decode the menu. He was extremely helpful and listened patiently to our attempts in German, Danish and French, as well as English.

One item was especially problematic. He was able to tell us that it was green. We figured that green and Belgium should mean endive. But no. We were going nowhere when, suddenly, a light went on! With a knowing look at our kids, the waiter announced proudly, "Kermit! Kermit!"

The frogs' legs were delicious.




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