Tag Archives: Danish

In search of the perfect email sign-off

Here’s a guest post from New York-based and friend of the Big Show, Alina Simone.

Remember being a sad weirdo in high school and feeling so insecure, you just kind of cop other people’s style and hope no one will notice?

Sculpting your hair into a black Aquanet spire to fit in with the Goths? Shredding the skin off your knees doing an Olly to impress the skaters?

Okay that’s just me. But I thought I’d at least kissed that grim, grasping feeling goodbye.

Actually, it confronts me every day, almost every hour, in the form of the email sign-off. Am I the only one? The only one who feels like nothing fits?

That all those “Warmlys” and “Regards” and “All bests” are the worst?

And all those international options — “Ciao” and “Suerte” and “Bises” and, God forbid, “Tatty bye”? — don’t help. They hurt. A lot.

There are days I would willingly shave off my eyebrows just to be excused from ever thinking about email sign-offs again. Mostly I just wait for that merciful plateau to arrive in an e-relationship, when you can finally drop the sign-off.

Until then, here is the détente that I’ve reached: “Poka poka,” for my Russian friends. (It means “Bye-bye” and feels okay.)

“Warmly,” with people I don’t know. (Meh.) “Hugs” for everyone at The World. (No one’s complained.) And for my family: nothing. Because it’s they’re stuck with me — even if I start using “Tatty bye.”

Then I decided to rally: to embark on a Goldilocks-type quest for the ideal sign-off, one unique to me. Just like the Colonial War re-enactor I recently interviewed who signs off, “Yours in Liberty.” Perfect, right?

So I took to Facebook, where some truly horrifying options instantly emerged. Like “Toodles.” And “Ta for now.” Then came the inscrutable hipster acronyms that make old people sad. TTYL? GG? Sorry, no.

My favorite of the bunch was “Stay classy.” But I feared “Stay classy” was like some gold lame dress I’d buy on impulse only to have my friends look at it and go, “Um, how about you stay classy?”

I invite my friend Stephen over to be my sign-off spirit guide. His sign-offs are the best. Again, they probably wouldn’t work for me, but suit him to a tee. Like the Spanglish, “Hasta then” (so much better than “Later”). Or the casually guillotined, “As evs.”

According to Stephen, the ideal sign-off requires both humor and speed. Keep it light and don’t overthink it. But even Stephen makes mistakes.

“Well I don’t sign off, ‘All best’ anymore,” Stephen confessed. “I once sent one that I thought said ‘All best’ to somebody at Ralph Lauren, and my finger moved and I wrote, ‘Ass best,’ and they blocked my emails.”

My Facebook friends also shared mortifying sign-offs they’d received from non-English speakers, like “Thanks Sir Mister!” and the sinister-sounding “I look forward to your cooperation.”

Even if it’s the safest option, though, Stephen still won’t be switching to “sincerely” anytime soon. Unless he secretly hates you.

“When you think about it, sincerely is the nicest because you’re telling someone you’re sincere,” Stephen told me. “You’re giving them all of your true feeling. But it sounds cold.”

This whole time, I’m nodding along, smiling, but when he digs into “Cheers,” my heart takes a plunge.

“I don’t like ‘Cheers,’ if it’s coming from an American. I think it has no place here. What are we going to do, say ‘lorry’ next? ‘Lift’? You know, really!”

Guilty, guilty, guilty. Not only do I long to say lorry and lift, but I yearn to use gobsmacked and knackered and especially cheers, which sounds so sophisticated when my British editor at The World, Patrick Cox, tosses it off, but apparently makes me sound like… a tosser.

This may sound like a tangent, but a while back I fell in love with the Danish TV series, “Borgen.” ‘Borgen’ makes me want to move to an ill-lit apartment in Copenhagen and spend my days mooning around cafés with brooding young men.

In Danish, ‘Borgen’ means castle but serves as a nickname for the parliament. To me, it felt like a sign-off. So I started using it with my “Borgen”-watching friends and then they started using it too.

True, people who don’t watch “Borgen” won’t get it, but do they even matter? When nothing makes sense, why not embrace the nonsensical?

What’s the most memorable email sign-off you’ve encountered? Let us know in the comments.


102 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Getting Kids to Speak Africa’s Languages, One Doll at a Time

Once every couple of months, Cartoon Queen Carol Hills and I pick five language stories to chat about. They’re all news stories of some sort, but none has made much of a splash. These are stories we chose this time:

The Future of Yoruba

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is worried that young Nigerians aren’t speaking Yoruba. The language is the native tongue of between 20-30 million people—mainly Nigerians, but also some Beninese and Togolese.

Girl with Rooti dolls. (Photo: Rooti Dolls)

(Photo: Rooti Dolls)

Many of Nigeria’s best-known cultural exports—Soyinka, Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade—were brought up as Yoruba speakers. Now there are calls to switch the language of instruction in schools and colleges from English to Yoruba. The idea is to head off a catastrophic crash before it’s too late.

A small part of the effort to keep Yoruba alive among young people is Rooti Dolls. It’s the brainchild of London-based Nigerian entrepreneur Chris Chidi Ngoforo. Big Show host Marco and I talked about Rooti Dolls and Yoruba in the broadcast:

Rooti Dolls are like regular speaking dolls, except that they each speak four or five languages. There are twelve in the series, covering close to 50 languages. They all also speak English, which they use to teach a few words in their African languages. The idea is to expose these languages to children who may be living far from their ancestral homelands. Ngoforo himself is raising three young daughters in exactly that situation (the family’s ancestral language isn’t Yoruba, but another Nigerian language, Igbo).

Also discussed in the podcast:



1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Perfect Love Song

Here’s a candidate for the perfect love song: Bravo Charlie by the Danish group Kliché.

Released in 1982, Bravo Charlie is heartfelt nonsense, profoundly meaningful and totally meaningless.

The first couple of times I heard it, without paying much attention to the lyrics, I thought it was an ode to a woman called Julia.

Then the penny—or the øre, this being Denmark—dropped.

The lyrics are comprised only of words contained in the NATO phonetic alphabet—Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc. Also known as the NATO spelling alphabet, it’s used by armies, aviators and many others.

The song’s one indulgence is the chorus line, which is made up of two words: “Oh, Julia.” Julia—the presumed object of the singer’s affections—substitutes for the NATO alphabet’s Juliet.

Lyricists might find this limiting. No verbs, for one thing, except the noun/verbs echo, golf, tango and x-ray. But there are also words evoking love (Romeo, Juliet), dancing (tango, foxtrot), and travel (India, Lima, Zulu, hotel). Then there’s Papa, a complication in many narratives of young lovers. And whiskey. We all know where that leads.

Kliché use some but not all of these words. They seem more interested in the sounds of the words, strung together between choruses of plaintive cries of “Julia”.

In its own way, Bravo Charlie makes more sense than most love songs. That’s the brilliance of Kliché’s conceit. Plus, there’s a pleasing undulance to phrases like Echo x-ray papa kilo lima and Mike yankee tango India.

(All the other songs on Kliché’s album Okay Okay Boys are in Danish. Thirty years after it first came out, I still often listen to it, along with the group’s first album, Supertanker—also a post-punk classic.)

Other items in this podcast:

  • Writer Lisa Appignanesi on how the English word love covers a absurdly broad range of meanings. Other languages use more than one word for love’s many shades of meaning. Not English.
  • Reporter and US Peace Corps veteran Nina Porzucki on the mixed messages that can result when love strikes in the Peace Corps.
  • Attempts to expand modern opera beyond the usual emotions: love at first sight, irrational hatred and life after death.

Listen via iTunes or here.


3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized