Tuesday, December 09, 2008

lost in [translation]

so, we had our first snow of the season today. bundling up to head off to work today, i was reminded of a story i thought would be appropriate for this weather.

it was my first year of college, and winter had set in. living on campus, i walked everywhere. it only took one long walk to history class and some incredibly frozen ears to realize my winter coat was not keeping every part of my body warm. i needed a "dootsy cap".

on my way back to the dorms i stopped at "the derb" to grab lunch. seeing one of my friends, carl, at a table, i sat down next to him. after discussing the food offering that day, we both remarked how terribly cold it was.

"speaking of that" i said, "do you know where in town i could find a 'dootsy cap'"?

[dumbfounded look on carl's face, followed by silence]

"a what?" he finally asked.

"a dootsy cap" i again stated

"i don't have a clue about what you're talking about!"

"you know...like a little knitted hat...you put on your head...to cover your ears!" i explained,

"do you mean, a stocking cap?"

"yeah, i guess you could call it that" i said

after finally getting on the same page, carl told me to check the mall for my "dootsy cap".

later that day, i made the trek to the mall, and eventually found what i was looking for, all the while wondering why i had thrown carl for such a loop.

trying to figure this all out, that night, i called my parents to clear up this little vernacular mishap. all my life, during the winter months, i was told to put on my "dootsie cap". it's what my parents had called it, so that's what i had called it. after laughing at me for just a bit, my parents explained it was a term passed down from my german heritage. my great grandparents and grandparents come from a very strong german community in kansas. after a few generations living in this area, the geman language had been modified, changed, shortened, and broken down, untill it had become it's own sort of german-american slang. one word that still found it's way into my own daily use was "dootsie kopf" which roughly translates as a stocking cap with a "poofy knit ball" on top, to wear on your head. hearing this as a kid, i myself changed it to "dootsy cap". i had no reason to ever question this word, as i had apparently had never used it in public before. i mean really, how often are stocking caps the center of conversation?

after some slight embarrassment, i was sort of proud that this "slang" word had made it down to my generation without question. a little bit of volga german pride came out that day. although in most conversations now, i'll refer to it as a "stocking cap", in my head, it'll always be a "dootsy cap".

so this winter, stay bundled up,...and don't forget your "dootsy caps".


Anonymous said...

a canadian friend once totally threw me by talking about needing a "touke". (which I think is correctly spelled "toque", but is pronounced as in "two"...) my response: "tooke? twook? what is that?" "you know, a touke! you don't know what a touke is?"

turns out... it's a knit stocking cap, you put it on your head to cover your ears.

(been reading for a while, enjoying your takes on life, bikes, the midwest, & also on working as an architect!)

Anonymous said...

hilarious! you have the best stories. if i didn't know any better, i'd think you were making these things up. but they're just too good to be fake. :)

Nicole said...

great story. please always call it a dootsy kopf. please.