09 May 2015

International nose-blowing

Spring and its ubiquitous dusting of pollen is upon us, so it's seems like an appropriate time to address How to Blow Your Nose Properly.

'Oh,' you might be saying to yourself (as I once did), 'The etiquette in this situation is obvious.'

This is presumably what one of my lovely American friends thought when he came to visit us, and politely sniffed his way through a bus ride, rather than offend fellow passengers with an uncouth-but-satisfying honk.

Our fellow passengers, however, reacted in polite horror. The elderly lady in front of us stiffened with every gentle sniff, her hand drifting automatically to the pocket in her purse which presumably held her stash of tissues.

Similarly, I can still remember the deep surprise on the face of one of L's English cricket friends when L, in a similar situation, pulled out his handkerchief and gave a mighty blow.

Basic rule of...er...nose: in the Czech Republic, out is better than in. On the other hand, in the US and UK, out should be done out of sight, but failing that, in.

I can see the health benefits of not sucking in what your body seems to think belongs out, but living in such a society is not without it problems. Last week, I was giving a test to my students where I read the question and they write the answer (I'll claim this is to test their listening skills, but the blastedly annoying photocopier is the main reason I do this). 

'Question number 6,' I said, 'Write the-'
'Write the best -' I tried again.
'Write - '

And so we had a brief nose blowing intermission.

The Czech word for 'pocket' is kapsa or kapesní, and the word for 'handkerchief' is kapesník - literally meaning, L told me in one of our first Czech lessons, that the kapesník is the pocket-friend or the thing that lives in a pocket.

Which makes me feel fondly of both Czech and tissues.

However, the slug of snot sliding out of ones nose is commonly called nudle - literally, 'noodle'. With a toddler, it's very usual to hear grandparents, friends, and strangers urgently point out, 'Máš nudle!' [You have a noodle], so that said noodle can be wiped away. 

Which makes me feel much less fondly of pasta.

Since moving to the Czech Republic, as a sign of my acclimation, I now have my very own an army of pocket-friends.

And I no longer eat spaghetti. 

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