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Travel Cultures Language

Nobody in Bulgaria
Is Calling You a Hobo

by Joyce McGreevy on February 27, 2017

A Bulgarian street prompts the thought that learning a second language will mean learning a second alphabet, Cyrillic. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Not all who wander Bulgarian streets are lost, just the non-Bulgarians.
© Joyce McGreevy

When Learning a Second Language
Means Learning a Second Alphabet

Your mission? Walk to the store. The one with signs that say “HOBO!” Funny, many stores in Bulgaria display that word. Why? You’re learning a second language, but hobo is nowhere in your phrasebook.

Even more mystifying to an English speaker? Bulgarian maps.

A Bulgarian map helps the author understand that learning a second language will mean learning a second alphabet, Cyrillic. (Image in the public domain.)

Should I turn наляво or надясно? And which is which?

Someone tells you, “Bilingual signs are everywhere.” So off you go, innocent as the day you were born. Sure enough, you find a sign with two versions of a street name.

An Idiom Abroad

by Joyce McGreevy on January 3, 2017

The statue of the Duke of Wellington in Glasgow shows that Scotland's fashions go beyond the wordplay of clothing idioms. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Trafficking in high fashion, Glasgow style. 
The Duke of Wellington monument at the Gallery of Modern Art.
© Joyce McGreevy

A Wordplay Stitch in Time

Sew, a funny thing happened on the way to a textile exhibition. One morning in Glasgow, I stopped at a café to write. The assignment: draft a column  about the wordplay of clothing idioms.

I’m no smarty pants, but I hoped to leave readers in stitches so I put on my thinking cap, booted up my laptop, and buckled down to work.  As cellphone users aired their dirty linen in public, I felt hampered and wished they would put a sock in it.

Have You a Party Piece?

by Joyce McGreevy on November 14, 2016

Kiaran O'Donnell and Rick Chelew play guitar at a small gathering, carrying on the Irish tradition of the party piece, sharing songs, stories, and poems. (Image © Joyce McGreevy)

Sharing our gifts turns strangers into friends; Kiaran O’Donnell and Rick Chelew had just met.
© Joyce McGreevy

What an Irish Tradition
Can Teach Us Today

It was known as the party piece, a “bit of an auld song” or spoken word. Would we have called it an Irish tradition? Probably not. As students in Galway, sharing songs, stories, and poems was just something we did on Saturday nights.

But the tradition goes back centuries, notes Irish historian P.W. Joyce. Ancient Irish sagas depict hospitality to travelers as a social virtue, and guests reciprocated with music or spoken word. “Like the Homeric Greeks, the Irish were excessively fond of hearing tales and poetry recited  . . . Every intelligent person was expected to know a reasonable number.”

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