You know how there’s always that one step that makes something your “thing”? Like one day you like to bake, and then you buy a stand mixer and suddenly you’re a baker (like my friend ghetto-B #datfoodblogdoe). Or you become a photographer when you get a dSLR (unless you’re instafamous, then I guess all you need is vsco cam…), or a true Dexter fan when you buy this:
(no need to have it gift wrapped, you can just send it straight to my house)
Well, knitters have a similar tipping point, and I believe I reached it three weeks ago when I made my very first impulse-buy off eBay during my half hour lunch break (my online purchases have more than doubled ever since I memorized my credit card number. stupid secondaries.):
Yes, I bought two skeins of Madelinetosh sock yarn! That’s right, one word. Madelinetosh. It’s so fancy it doesn’t even need spaces like common folk yarn (Madelineposh). Madelinetosh is, in my opinion, the gold standard of merino wool. Each lot is hand-dyed and therefore comes in a variety of unique, beautiful blends. And do you see the size of those skeins?! Each one is 395 yards, which is like 39.5% of a football field (well, not “like,” it’s actually exactly 39.5% of a football field), enough for a pair of socks or even a small shawl! So, when I saw two of these bad boys on sale, I simply couldn’t resist (I swear, half of the purchase was sheer muscle memory), and after season 1 of The Newsroom (Jim always pouts, it’s weird hearing Jack McCoy drop the F bomb, and did Dev Patel have that same accent in Slumdog?), I came out with this:
Okay, true confession, I rarely knit with light weight yarn, mostly because it takes forever to make anything larger than a sock and I’m a pretty impatient guy when it comes to finishing projects, but my budget will probably never allow me such an excessive purchase ever again (not a huge proponent of the YOLO movement), so I just went for it and tried my hand at this intricately designed cowl.
This is probably one of the more complex patterns I’ve used (not one of my own, sadly. it belongs to a Daknish knitter on Ravelry who was apparently inspired by the danske skogar), with two alternating designs and a garter stitch border to prevent curling, making it a perfect project for intermediate knitters looking to make a light spring/summer scarf. Because I’m a pretty tight knitter, my cowl was not as airy as what the original pattern entailed, so for you high-tension knitters out there who are like me, I would suggest doubling or even tripling the “yarn-over”s to get the loose, hole-y look that Frøken Eldøy intended, and then just releasing the extra loops when it comes time to knit them. But all in all, I’m pleased with the final product. It’s a great accessory for a slightly breezy day and I cannot get over how lush that green is. “Sock”cess (because it’s made from sock yarn, get it? c.f. “cowl”some, completely rad(elinetosh))!
If any of you have noticed the personality of my prose, penchant for poorly phrased puns, or abhorrent abuse of alliteration, then it will come as no surprise to you that I love language. That along with my brand spanking new Linguistics degree cause many people to assume that I know how to speak a plethora of languages, which sadly isn’t the case and happens to be a huge pet peeve of mine (second to that breeze you feel when someone walks past you really fast). I know a lot of things about a lot of languages, but deconstructing a language system is very different from becoming conversational in it. I’d like to become more fluent in different languages, though, and since I am currently living with my bilingual mother, I’ve decided to begin my quest of polyglotism with Cantonese.
Though I was tempted to just sit down and memorize Cantonese’s phonological and syntactic structures, I ultimately opted for a more effective path, learning this language the way that any reasonable newborn baby would: complete and total immersion. That’s right. My mother speaks with me exclusively in Cantonese, and I am required to either a) respond in Cantonese, b) respond in Mandarin and ask how it would be said in Cantonese (“deem yurng gong?”) or (and this is the option I’ve preferred) c) avoid her like The Plague. As a result, I have developed a Pavlovian reaction of intense anxiety and nausea whenever my mom approaches me, and my relationship with her has deteriorated exponentially (it’s safe to say that that bridge is effectively burned).
Well, at least that was the case initially. Over time (as any 2-year-old will tell you), I’ve picked up some crucial words and phrases that have helped me get through the day (Note: my transcriptions are a mix of IPA and pin yin. Don’t worry about trying to pronounce them correctly, you’re probably saying them just as badly as I am):
“dzo sun/man an” — “Good morning/night”
“gnaw fan gong le” — “I’m going to work”
“gnaw gum tin yao sui” — “Today I swam”
“gnaw ho gui” — “I’m very tired”
“gnaw dzoy ba si haap gnan fun” — “I took a nap on the bus”
“gnaw day gay see sick?” — “What time are we eating?”
“lap sap! lap sap! lap sap!” — “Trash! Trash! Trash!”
With these phrases, I can literally describe every activity I do on a daily basis (sad, I know) as well as name what’s inside the garbage bags that my mom carries outside every Tuesday evening. But there is one more phrase that I learned, and it marks a very momentous milestone in my Cantonese education.
Around a week ago, I was in the car with my family, aunt, and grandmother, returning home from a family dinner. The topic of discussion was moon cakes (yoot beng in case any of you were doubting my phonetic prowess), and suddenly, with a clear, authoritative voice, I said, “gnaw mm zhong yi dan (I don’t like eggs)!” Thinking back now, I’m not exactly sure what prompted this declaration of displeasure, or why I felt the need to say it so decisively, but immediately afterwards, my grandmother broke out in laughter. She was probably (definitely) laughing at how random that statement was (I had yet to learn how to say, “I don’t like eggs in my moon cakes.” dumb prepositional phrases.), but that moment struck me; it was as if I had just spoken to her for the very first time.
Don’t get me wrong, my grandmother and I are very close. We grew up together (well, I grew up with her. she didn’t grow up with me. that wouldn’t make sense.). When I was younger, she would tape aloe leaves to my face to give me better skin (yet to this day my skin is like, annoyingly dry and devoid of any hydration) and make me drink hot Hawaiian Punch when I was sick (haven’t had Hawaiian Punch since). And when I got a bead stuck in my ear (don’t ask), she’s the one who tried to extract it with a rusty metal hook (she’s 80 with a bum right arm. it was pretty terrifying.). But whenever I was with her, I always spoke English, which she would nod along to with a vague understanding and reply with Chinese that I didn’t comprehend at all. That evening in the car, though, discussing our preference of dairy products, she heard and knew my words exactly as I had produced them, and in a sense, she finally heard me as me.
It’s been tough not being able to speak with my mom in English (last night she asked me if I liked big dogs or small dogs. I said big dogs.), but I’ve been getting better, working towards a day when I’ll be able to hold an entire conversation in Chinese. And when that day comes, there are several things I’d like to discuss with my grandmother, but until then, I have some pretty strong opinions on brussel sprouts that I feel like she should hear.
***The ending “-by” in English place-names such as Whitby or Selby is a borrowing from the Danish word “by“, meaning “village” or “town.”
P.S. Here are some updates on my box. Routers are my new favorite power tool: