Out of the window of my kitchenette I can look into the window of a girl in the next house. Every morning I get my breakfast by her dressing. My coffee I start as she begins to unwind her curls from their steel cages. I have a suspicion that she also dresses by me. If she sniffs my coffee first, I imagine she hurries with her curls. She is usually fixing her eye-brows to my toast and by the time I sit down she is doing her lips.
After that she goes off for the long day and so do most of the people in the block. Then at night they all return, drawn by some tie of love or habit or despair, each to his right place in the long row of houses, which have been sitting there all day with their poker faces, waiting.
He had just opened a store on our street and in a Lady Bountiful spirit of helping him out, I went in to do a little trading. I told him I would like a can of baked beans. Baked beans, but he didn’t seem to understand. So pointing over the counter where they were in plain sight, I said with all my teeth and tongue: “Baaked Beens.” He followed my finger. “Oh,” he said correcting me, “You min Purrk ind Bins.”
That was the beginning and for weeks that Greek has been correcting my pronunciation. There is no use to argue about it. The fellow has no reverence for Noah Webster and besides there are more Greeks, nowadays, than Yankees, and their way is probably getting to be the right way. Sometimes I think it is we who are the “foreigners.”
Once it was cauliflower. Now, I say cauliflower exactly as it is spelled but that isn’t right. It is “Culliefleur,” said staccato. And honey — one day I wanted honey and after I had sung “Hunnie, hunnie” in high C, and he didn’t understand, I went around and picked out a jar of it. “Oh,” he said reproachfully, “you min hawney.”
A Scotch woman had a scene with him the other day over some “paeper.” There is no way of spelling it as she said it. She kept repeating it and he kept getting the wrong thing. No, she didn’t want paper but “paeper” - seasoning for the table — salt and “paeper.” The more excited she got, the more Scotch she got and the more confused he. Then, when they were both fairly hysterical, I discovered that it was pepper.
Then you should have heard that Greek scold. He told her that it was “Pip-RR.”
And she said back, “Paeper.”
Then they argued and never once did either one of them get it “Pepper.”
One day I heard him laying down the law to a woman who had dared question his price of “Rust Bif.” He told her what he had to pay for it in “Cash Mawney” and asked her if she could do so, to explain. “Explin — you kin explin — explin.” But she couldn’t explain. So, chastened, she meekly bought the roast beef at his price.