Guide to Moral Living in Examples: The Language Barrier, part 1

Tim, the President of the United States of America turned to his interpreter.

"I'm sorry, could you repeat that?"

"Your skin is as smooth and attractive as a sack of nuts. Or it could be translated as nutsack. Either way, sir, I don't believe that President Guo intends to flatter you."

"We're talking about nuclear disarmament, and until a moment ago, we sounded like we were both on the same page. That page read, in both English and Mandarin, 'hey, let's not nuke each other so hard that whatever cockroach survives won't be able to find a puddle of blood to swim in!' Seems pretty simple to agree upon. Is it possible that you have transformed before my very eyes into the world's worst interpreter? The village idiot of the global community?"

"Sir. I have a pile of degrees from all of the best universities, and my book of Chinese poetry has been widely pirated."

"Hhhmmm," President Tim scratched his beard. "Tell him that I moisturize regularly."

The interpreter repeated the phrase into the phoneline that connected all the way from Washington D.C. to Beijing. Then both he and President Tim listened.

A stream of agitated Chinese erupted from the speaker of the phone that each man held.

"I don't speak Chinese but I do speak Pissed-Off. What in the hell did you say?"

"Exactly what you did!"

"He sounds hopping mad! Ask him what he heard!"

The interpreter did so. President Guo yelled for a few minutes, then they heard a loud bang and the line went dead.

"Do you need to translate?"

"I'd prefer not to."

"I am going to fire you just as soon as you tell me what in the hell you said to him." President Tim set the phone into its cradle. The interpreter did likewise. It immediately rang. The President picked it up, and motioned for the interpreter to do likewise.

"You're not fired yet," he mouthed. "Hello, President Guo?"

"You goddamn yankee bastard!" yelled the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

"Oh, Simon, sorry, I was just-"

"We're going to bomb you into a smoking crater like King George would have done if you weren't a bunch of dishonorable knob honkers."

"What are you-"

"Wait until our warships get there. Good job building the White House so close to the ocean. Another idiot move from another idiot colony. We could have taxed you so hard that you wouldn't have been able to afford a piece of string to keep up your britches, let alone all those damn rifles or George Washington's unfashionable tricorn."

The Prime Minister hung up.

"Has the whole goddamn world gone insane?!" President Tim said.

The phone rang. He answered.

"Arschloch," said the German Chancellor.

"Tell me why everybody hates me all of a sudden!"

The phone went dead. The President slammed the phone down and began to dial a new number.

"Hello, is this Governor-General Leon?"

"Crikey, we are going to cram a crocodile up your ass as soon as we can."

President Tim slammed the phone down. As soon as the handset touched the cradle it began to ring again.

It was the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, who said something shockingly unpleasant. Fortunately, it was in Luxembourgish, so neither President Tim nor his interpreter could tell. But they understood the language of having the other party hang up the phone.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ran into the room.

"Tim, I have bad news."

"Don't tell me that I missed a meeting."

"Our intelligence reports that China and the United Kingdom have begun activating their nuclear protocols. We're going to war."

The Moral: a pile of degrees can keep you warm at night if you layer

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