During my graduate school years at Syracuse, I used to know Ioanna — a Greek girl of sweet disposition and inexplicable hair. When I met her, she had just moved from her native land of Crete and was only beginning to learn English. So she used to start her sentences with “Eh La Re” and affectionately address all her friends “Malaka” and was generally trying stay afloat in this total English immersion experience that is a small university town in the US of A.
Soon, she found the quirkiness of this eccentric language a bit too much. On one wintry day in Syracuse, Ioanna drove to Wegmans, the local supermarket, presumably looking for feta cheese or eggplants. But she was unable to find it. As with most people not fluent in the language of the land, she wasn’t quite confident enough to approach an employee on the floor for help. I can totally understand her; I don’t approach anybody for help even in my native town. But I digress; coming back to Ioanna at Wegmans, she noticed this little machine where she could type in the item she wanted and get its location. The machine displayed, “Aisle 6.”
Ioanna was floored. She had never seen the word “aisle.” So she fought and overcame her fear of Americans and decided to ask an employee where this thing called Aisle 6 was. Unfortunately, the way this English word sounds has nothing to do with the way it is spelled. Without the benefit of this knowledge, Ioanna asked a baffled and bemused clerk, “Where is ASSELLE six?”
The American was quick-witted though. He replied politely, “I’m sorry, miss. I am asshole number 3; asshole number 6 is taking a break. Can I help you?”