I’m not a great TV watcher, something not helped by having the world’s worst cable package from yousee.dk. About a dozen really poor Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian channels.
Tiring of not really grasping the finer points of the news, I inevitably started flicking: white noise – nature programme – white noise – white noise – documentary about dead mountain climbers – white noise – Frost – white noise – cheesy Scandi soap – white noise – GOLD!
Pushing midnight, I stumbled across ‘Allo ‘Allo!. This curious effort of a sitcom has always held a strange fascination for me – a wartime comedy about French resistance to occupying Nazis as seen through the eyes of a randy cafe owner is weird enough. But the language is often the strangest thing. The French characters speak English with a bad French accent. The Germans speak English with a bad German accent. The English speak a toffee-nosed version of English – all chaps this, and right-ho that.
There is one character, a British SOE man named Crabtree dropped into France to spy disguised as a policeman, who is particularly odd. He is supposed to be fluent in French, but of course, he isn’t. So he speaks English with a bad French accent. Eg, he might say the line, “I was just passing so I thought I’d drop in” as “Er was jerst pissing so Er thought Er’d drip in”. The episode I stumbled upon last night was Crabtree’s debut, and while he was new and his full comic potential yet to be developed, his general incompetence with language struck a chord with me.
I wondered if I spoke Danish as badly as he spoke French? I don’t know. Interestingly, on many occasions now, my Danish has led people to believe I am Swedish. One chap refused to believe I came from England.
My colleagues always ask how my Danish is progressing and I always tell them the same thing: I won’t say how good my Danish is. It gives me an edge if you don’t know how much of what you say I understand.
But I like to think when I speak it, I am burbling in some Crabtree-esque version of Danish. That would please me.