You Have A This Problem

What is this anyway?

I knew this discussion would be annoying when it starts out with that statment. 

What are you talking about?




Ok, there are a lot of THIS around here.  Be more specific.


It’s late, tell me what you want or I’ll pick something.


Well… the puppy chased its tail for a while.   Finally it was narrowed down to a specific object on the couch.

“THIS” is a cover for the dog bed.

OK, it was on MY chair and I didn’t know what it was!

Thinking that it’s probably best not to say what I was thinking – you picked it up so you should have figured it out when you moved it those six feet, those two meters across the room.  It’s blue and white and fuzzy and has the name of a pet store on the side…

Very good… ok… so –

No, really, I didn’t know what this was!

You really should not use that word.  Make an effort to excise this from your vocabulary.

Do what?

Don’t use the word.

Which word?


Yes, which word.

Ok, it is really too late for this.  You have a this problem.

See now you’re doing it and you’re speaking Italian now.

No I am not speaking Italian and if I were, it’s ok, they’re my people.  That is because we are using the word as a definite pronoun, not an indistinct member of an indistinct set of items.

What is wrong with this?

No, what is wrong with that?, and I’m not going to be a grammar nazi after 9pm.  It’s not my jurisdiction.

Oh sure, you can but I’m not allowed to use This.

No, you’re not allowed.  Consider it my word.  Some day I may loan it to you but I will always have ownership over it.

No, this is my word too.

It went on like that for a while.

I’m sure we all have friends like that.  Imprecision is comedy, not language.  Save a mind today, use this sparingly.

You are such a Tsviatok!

Back in the 90s I worked as a Programmer Analyst at the School District of Philadelphia.   I was that guy who got all the really difficult assignments, did the direct client contacts, and basically ended up working as a Project Manager with everyone from the clerks and janitors to the Superintendent’s Office.

It was a lot of fun, and I got to work with a lot of different people.   We had a very diverse office, and between the South Philly Italians, the Russians, and some other groups, it taught me how to manage some situations that might have been handled by heavier hands with finesse.

I was walking around this morning looking at the Ground Orchids that my neighbor Jack had planted on the property line and the story of the Tsviatok came to mind.

You see one of my friends there was an intense South Philly Italian nicknamed Sammy.  He was a cross between Bart Simpson and a Jack Russell Terrier, very bouncy, intense, and always happy.  Sammy had a habit of getting into things and stirring up the pot from time to time.  He did have a habit of making things Interesting, and depending on how busy you were, you could enjoy those little thing or not.

At one time, Sammy was learning some Russian from some of the Russian ladies in our department.  He started of course with the dirty words, because that is said to be the first words that you learn in another language when you feel like playing around with others.

This unnerved two of the Russian ladies I worked with, Faye and Inna.  They were more quiet and reserved, a pair of rather sweet ladies that found someone walking around swearing like a sailor very rude.   So they said to me that since I was Sammy’s friend could I speak with him.  Knowing how Sammy liked to get into trouble, I decided that we’d have a little fun with him.

We would fight fire with fire.

I said “So tell me a word that we could use…”

Inna said she couldn’t do such a thing and it wasn’t right for a lady to speak like that.
Faye replied that she never swears and she wouldn’t use those words at all.

I said “Ok, then lets do something different.”.  What I did was tell them to give me a word that sounded to a native English speaker very rude and strong, but meant something completely harmless.

“Like Flower!  It would be our secret.  We will tell him it is the worst swear word in the world and all the while we would be yelling Flower! at him.”

The ladies loved it, and four of the five Russian ladies who worked with me were all in on the joke!

The problem was the fifth, Slava.  She would be the one who would give it all away so we had to do it fast, and do it in the week she’s away on vacation.

Sammy came by and said his curses to me while Faye was in my office working, and I responded:

“You know Sammy, that really was uncalled for.  That’s the kind of thing only a Tsviatok would say!  Now, we’re busy trying to get our reports out for all the students so please leave us be.”.

Sammy demanded to know:  “Tsviatok? What is a ‘svee uh tock’?  How do you say it again?”
Faye played along well: “I cannot say it, it is the worst swear word in the Russian language, perhaps the world!”.
 “Yes, Sammy you are a Tsviatok!”

From that point Sammy had a new best friend, the word “Tsviatok”.  He went around the building telling everyone they were a Tsviatok, and “cursing” at anything he could!

Tsviatok!Tsviatok!Tsviatok! was all we had heard for three days.

The director of the department, Linda, a good friend even took me aside and said “This is getting scary, we’re afraid this is going to be a problem!  What does it mean, Bill”.

“Linda, I really can’t say that sort of thing in an office, but I’m working on the problem child.”.

This went on all week, and Friday morning, I had my usual status meeting with my two bosses, Danny and Yaz, when near the end they said “Hey Bill, close the door we have to talk”.

Yep, one of those talks.

But knowing the guys, they were going to be into the whole joke, so we set it up that Sammy would be called in and “Disciplined” for doing all this swearing.  I was congratulated on my scheme and told that they couldn’t have done a better job managing a difficult problem.

I was proud of that little situation.

This was mid morning, and we knew the game would be up by Monday when Slava was coming back from her week off so we had to act fast.

Yaz called in Sammy to the closed door meeting once he was off the phone.

Of course that was the time the joke got spoiled.  You see, Slava’s husband had called in to Faye to iron out some weekend details and Sammy grabbed the phone and asked him what was a Tsviatok.


He immediately went looking for me, and told Linda what the story was.
Linda spotted me first.  “Ha ha, very funny, Bill.  Flower? Is THAT what it means?”
“Yes, Linda, that is what it means.”

Having a meeting with Technical Support as the liaison from Application Development, I hopped on the elevator to the first floor.  When the doors opened to the marble encrusted lobby, there was Sammy.  He had come down looking for me knowing I needed to make my meeting.

“I know what that means.  Flower!  Why did you do it?”.

“Sammy, buddy, the ladies were really hating how much you were swearing and didn’t know how to handle it.  We figured we’d have a little fun and teach you a lesson at the same time.  The whole office excluding the upper management was in on the joke.”

To this day, more than 15 years later, the story of the Tsviatok still makes me smile.  Sammy calmed down, and his Russian lessons were cut short.  Even Slava enjoyed the story and called him “My Little Tsviatok” in a thick Ukranian accented English.

You can teach people how to speak another language.  After all, a foreign language is something someone else knows that you don’t and you should never be afraid to learn something.  Sometimes it takes a little flower to get you interested.  It could be something nonsensical as well.

Thinking of this story, I saw this video about a pair of teachers in Cambodia using “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to teach English to some children.   The smiles on their faces were a nice start to my day, even if the word means nothing.

Just think of it as a little Tsviatok for your day as well.

The Pitfalls of Shopping Online In Engrish

I hit the deal a day sites and the deal news sites pretty heavily.   I’ve gotten a lot of things from places that I might not have heard about and got some amazing deals.   The problem comes when you stumble across a website that doesn’t do things quite right.

Recently there as a deal on a memory stick.  Ok, so it was beyond ugly since it looked like Santa Claus.  Actually let me take that one step further.  The stick looked like Santa Claus with a USB port shoved up his back side.

But the reason why I tried to get this stick was that it was 1/3 the going price.  $10 for a 32GB stick when the best price I have seen was $30 and you had to jump through Mail In Rebates.

No I won’t do a mail in rebate.  They’re a gamble by the company that you will forget and not send in the paperwork, dance three times clockwise around your coffee table, pet the dog backwards, and use the potted plants to clean your toilet.  Really, they can be that obtuse to follow.

Just kidding about the coffee table dance, after all how could they prove it?

After getting a deal on some white pocket T Shirts (3 for 10) that everyone here in Wilton Manors will be seeing me wear until they’re past their prime, I started on the Santa Drive.  That didn’t go well.  You see I have my credit card number memorized including that special code that you are supposed to enter in that lets you buy online in confidence.  Makes life easier, I can sit down think “CC Number” and out from my flying fingers goes a long string of digits. 

After keying in the relevant info, it rejected me.   You see the first problem was that the drive that I was secretly thinking of by now as Satan Claus was on a site that was new.  Also it was in China.  Direct orders from a Chinese website.  Oh joy, that makes me dance around the coffee table in happiness and security.  It turns out that the website was written to about the quality that one would expect from Chinese Goods. 


Secondly it was fulfilling payment via Paypal.   That would be a plus in this case except Paypal barfed on my credit card.  Thinking I did it wrong (yeah right!) I did something special.  I got up out of the bouncy Poang Chair and got the physical credit card.  Typed that number in again.

What is that definition I’m thinking of?  Oh right “The definition of insanity is repeating an action and expecting a different result”.  Or some such.

So what do I do?  I do the childhood OCD Special Data Entry System on the Keyboard.  I typed it in one. number. at. a. time. slowly. looking. at. every. single. key… twice. 

Strike three I’m out.

Oh wait, Kevin has a Paypal account right?  So I shoot Kevin all that information and he says wow that’s butt ugly having a USB port stuck there, but the price is amazing so I’ll try.

Thanks Kevin, I got you involved in this battle too.  Battle because he actually got the order in.   When he sent me the confirmation email in a forward I saw his name and three Chinese Characters and thought “this just might not go well”.

You see, the problem with Paypal is that contrary to legitimate credit card companies, this hybrid mess immediately takes the money out of your account and pays them so you have no real recourse in case of problems.  It means you end up with some less honorable companies than you would had you been dealing with American Express or Visa or some other real credit card company since they are guaranteeing it.

Have you gotten the idea that I am wary of Paypal?  Good, you’re listening!

This went on about a week and we got an email from the company saying that they had cancelled the sale.   We’re not completely sure that we were going to get the charges reversed, but Kevin filed a complaint with Paypal.

So if you’re brave, and feel like buying from a foreign website, just remember this tale and think thankfully it was “only” 10 dollars we are out.   Still no butt ugly Chinese Satan Claus memory stick but one heck of a wild example of the EngRish language.

From: support
Date: Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 3:10 AM
Subject: your order

Hello dear friend:

I am the manager form web site.

First i delegate all of our staff thanks for your business.

our website built not a long time ,so many thing are in development stage.

if something not manage good ,hope you can remind and understanding.

This time i send you email ,just want told you our staff had made a mistake when he edit the production information .the “35″and”36″items you purchase , not 32GB,they are 8GB. the one 32G,is 40$,but now is out off stock .

so he made a stupid mistake .write this items is 32G.

Now your order is processing ,if you still want keep your order ,we will add a gift your order ,

if you want cancel it ,we will cancel it for you. and refund your money.

Sincerely sorry for this mistake ,I know you are a generous friend.

in order to our future business ,I hope this time you can forgive ours mistake.

At last ,i hope our website with your help can he become more and more good .

so can give you more good service .

any goods you want purchase you can suggest to us .we will try our best help you find them ,and provide for you.

Waiting your reply in patience.

Best regards

All of staff