Toluca Gringa

8,700 feet does more than simply turn you into a cheap date

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

poor art

I recently discovered a pastry item that is more or less what I’ve always called a cream puff. Or maybe it’s an éclair. I don’t know, but eating it reminded me of the frozen box of pastries my mom used to buy, where they’d enjoy a few good hours in the freezer next to the pizza, pocket sandwiches, and peas before being gobbled up by Kim and me (although I’m sure I could kill a box without any help. Those were the days when I was, according to my father, a tough cookie, and needed cream filling to maintain my superhuman strength.)

This morning I was eating one of these pastries (flakey dough filled with light and glorious cream, covered generously with a haphazard plop of chocolate) while reading Semantic Representation, which has been in a file labeled "Haj Stuff" for quite a while now. Biting into a glob of cream and frantically maneuvering in order to keep the thing from dribbling onto the keyboard, I read the following sentence:

John doesn’t beat his wife because he loves her.

followed by:

John told Harry that his wife was pretty.

While we can’t deny that John has some issues, the reality is that these sentences affect me as a teacher and a learner. Regarding this guy named John, in the first sentence we can think of a couple scenarios which would be obvious to native English speakers, even those strung out on refined sugars. Either John is an asshole, or John is a decent fellow. And in the second sentence, we as native speakers know that John is either proud of his wife (whom he may or may not beat) or that he is fond of someone else’s.

Interestingly, if you show these sentences to an English learner (my sample size being those who have entered my office in the past couple of days), they will say, in all certaintly, that John is a man who definitely does not beat his wife, but he does have designs on the wife of Harry.

Two cream puffs later, I considered these sentences in Spanish (=me as learner). To me, they’re equally ambiguous. However, when I showed the Spanish versions to monolingual Spanish speakers, they all separately agreed – all three of them – that John does not beat his wife, and he thinks Harry’s wife is pretty.

“But, could it be this….”

No, maestra,” they insisted.

“But, could it be that, although he doesn’t beat his wife because he loves her, he might beat her for a different reason? Maybe she doesn’t dance well?”

No response.

So, this pastry is sold just down the street from my house and I love it very much.
Not the street. Or the house. It’s the pastry that I love.


At 8:09 AM, Blogger Shayne said...

we find out next week if we are being transfered from Michigan to Toluca MX and I was reading up a little and found your blog. The Michigan on the photo lead me to read this post...nothing about mighigan but I figured I would make a comment anyway.


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