Thursday, July 29, 2010

Frank Moore Colby, Meet Tony Lanzio

Tony Lanzio is the guy who taught Dad how to make chicken cacciatore and turned him on to making his own spaghetti sauce and other Italian foods. He’s also the guy that was at least 25 percent easier to understand after I spent two years in France.

Tony, it turns out, speaks several languages. At least English, Italian, French, German and Dutch. To make things interesting, he speaks them all at once.

I’m not sure you could classify him as a francophile, as Frank Moore Colby claims to be in his piece “Confessions of a Gallomaniac.” He does it, I believe, out of survival. As an immigrant to the United States from Europe after World War II – just like my father – Tony simply picked up languages along the way as a way to get along.

So hearing Colby’s pidgin French/English conversation in this piece is a delight:

‘It is good morning,’ said I, ‘better than I had extended.’

‘I was at you yestairday ze morning, but I deed not find.’

‘I was obliged to leap early,’ said I, ‘and I was busy standing up straight all around the forenoon.’

‘The book I prayed you send, he came, and I thank, but positively are you not deranged?’

‘Don’t talk,’ said I. ‘Never talk again. It was really nothing anywhere. I had been very happy, I reassure.’

‘Pardon, I glide, I glode. There was the hide of a banana. Did I crash you?’

Gestures and smiles of perfect understanding.

This is, I’m sure, how I sound in French. This is how Tony sounds always, given his penchant for mixing languages. Colby’s is a delightful romp through learning a language because you want to communicate with people, not because you want to impress them.

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