I’m reading Sushi with Everything. This is a good book, an enjoyable read with an engrossing story and satisfying characters and enough serious thought-provoking stuff for any summer’s evening.

It is an Irish book. I have to admit that I don’t read much Irish fiction. Maeve Binchy, Roddy Doyle, JP Donleavy, and of course Swift and Yeats and Joyce back when I was reading the classics. That’s about it. Perhaps this is why I was entirely unfamiliar with the colloquial expression “pants.”

In Sushi for Beginners, all bad things are “pants.” It seems to be an adjective, but I am not entirely sure of that. The characters say that “the movie was pants,” “Tell him it was pants,” “She read the paper but it was just pants.” They never say “a pants movie,” so I suppose it is possible that it is in fact a noun. Does it have anything to do with trousers or with panting? Does anyone out there know about Irish slang? Here in Hamburger-a-go-go-land, we never say that things are pants.

It could come in handy, though. There I am, holding open yet another planbook.

“Well, I think the squares were larger.”
“What about this one? The squares are quite large.”
“I think it had more squares, though.”
“Well, this one has eight squares.”
“They’re too small, though.”
“Well, this one has shadow lines on the vertical, so you can divide it into as many squares as you want.”
“Well…”
“It’s pants, isn’t it, choosing a planbook?”

The customer would be so dumbfounded that she would just take the planbook, any planbook, in a hypnotized manner reminiscent of a snake being charmed. She would be thinking, “Pants? Pants?” and could no longer be obsessing over the size of the squares.

I really like the differences among varieties of English. The worldwide shortage of Mavalus tape continues, but we did get a little bit yesterday, and I called one of our English customers to offer her some. She said it was “fab.” Americans cannot of course say that things are “fab” without sounding as though we are trapped in a mid-sixties time warp (although we do occasionally say “fabbity fab fab” around our house, in honor of Louise Rennison). Anyway, she said “Mahvelous. I’ll pop round on Fridy or Sat’dy.” Americans never pop round anywhere, either. It brought a breath of the exotic into my afternoon, without actually being hard to understand.

We have a couple of French Canadian customers, too. For me the difference in the sound of Canadian French is quite fascinating. We may have lots of English-speaking Canadians, for all I know, because Canadian English is just another of those little regional accents in North American English, but Canadian French really sounds quite different from European French. I do eavesdrop on them, I admit it, not in order to learn more about their lives or anything, but because the accent is so cute. I probably should not, because after all, they are thinking that no one knows what they are saying. They probably speak quite freely.

However, in these days of near-universal cell phones, most people seem to talk quite freely. At the tops of their lungs. Sharing details of their love lives, health, and real estate deals that might, if they were talking to someone actually present, be said with lowered voice.

It doesn’t matter to me. I am only listening if you have a cute accent.

Ah, yes, knitting. Brooklyn is growing. Brooklyn is a British knitting pattern, and therefore uses metric measurements. This is fine. We in Hamburger-a-go-go-land know that the rest of the world uses metric and that we alone are mired in the old imperial system. I have found, though, that while I have quite a clear idea of a centimeter, 43 centimeters means absolutely nothing to me. 13 inches, 5 inches, 27 inches — any number of inches can be mentioned in a knitting pattern and I have a point of reference, but somehow 43 centimeters could just be anything. I only have a mental image of one centimeter, and 43 of them is just too many to put together meaningfully. I have to keep a measuring tape handy all the time.

“Imperial” of course refers to the old British Empire. It is slightly unnerving that we now use it, with such an imperialist as we have in the White House. Some people now call it “U.S. Customary,” which is a nice little euphemism, with only one drawback — that very few people understand what it means.

Sort of like “pants.”