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Push the Tomato into the Bull!

bull Illustration: Liora Blum

For many years, I served as a senior examiner for the national English matriculation examinations. The work is tedious and demanding: you sit for a daily concentrated eight hours or more checking and grading exam papers, whilst paying close attention to each one in order to give it the highest grade it deserves. Moreover, you have to keep a close eye out for cheating and then when suspected, spend more time laboriously (and unremunerated) filling in the appropriate forms.

The five-point examination (the highest level) included two written assignments, the length of each one limited to approximately 150 words and with the subjects being changed each year. Even so, much of the content and style was of a mind-numbing sameness with few amusing moments to alleviate the ennui. To enliven and lighten the experience, many of us examiners would collect and write down the most entertaining "bloopers" that would then be posted on the marking center notice board. Very often, the gleanings were meager but a few particular years yielded a veritable cornucopia. Here is a selection – unabridged, uncensored and completely authentic.

The instructions on how to make a pizza with the assorted spelling and grammatical mistakes plus direct translations from Hebrew and hasty improvisations provided some gems:

  • "If you want to please your family and friends – cook them." – Hannibal Lecter has family in Israel.
  • "Try putting fungus on your pizza." – But avoid the Death Cap!
  • "Put the dough on the side until it blows up." – Keep a safe distance and wear safety glasses.
  • "First of all, you have to take a bull and make a betel for the pizza. Now you have to catch the tomato and put it into the bull." – Guaranteed not only to produce an inferior pizza but also a most unpleasantly surprised bovine!
  • "You should preparing the pizza as follows: Put the floud and water into the bowel and scrumble it with a spoon." – A popular Tibetan variation.
  • "After the catshup you have to spit some pizza soas on the metirial."
  • "Pizza sauce: add a drop of oil and a twezal of salt." – A little known ancient Babylonian cooking measure.
  • "Add some species to your pizza." – The writer's cat must have run for the hills!

Two instances of vented cooking frustration leading to unwarranted violence:

  • "To make pizza, you have to hit the oven first."
  • "Put the flour, salt, sugar and oil in the same bowel and smash it with your hands."

Some excerpts from applications for position of a summer camp counsellor:

  • "If the job is already caught."
  • "I have been a leather for six years." - An accident in the family tannery?
  • "I was in a combat unit and learned the country by feet." – Whose? Exaggerated modesty can often be counterproductive!
  • "Before I started to play basketball, I was a thick child."
  • "I would like to know the conditions in camp and if I have to sleep with the youth?" – No! Chatting to them will suffice.
  • "I was happy to run into your working offer while I was walking down the street." – Hope you didn't bump your nose!
  • "I was in a combat unit and learned a variety of techniques that will be useful in camp." – Relax! The youngsters are expressly forbidden to bring knuckle dusters with them.

Self-confidence has never harmed anyone:

  • "My English is well."
  • "I can dill with teens and my English is prefect."
  • "I think I possess the qualities necessary for such a job. I am yang, intuinizing and furthermore – I know English!"
  • "I was in America several times and so I speak fluency English."

The speech on environmental issues in Israel, with attendant misspellings and letter omissions brought some intriguing results:

  • "This layer protects us from the UV (ultraviolent) rays of the sun."
  • "We should put our garbage into a pubic bin." – Never came across one!
  • "The problem of polluten in Israel is very bad but the pubic hair doesn't know or understand that."
  • "In Haifa, there are breeding problems among older people." – This task is generally left to the younger generation.

And lest we forget - native originality in approaches and solutions:

  • "Burial sites are filling up and we stand helpless. Recycling isn't a common solution to the problem either!"
  • "Little animals essentially birds are more sensitive to toxic material. An important example of this is the elephant." – A case of untreated acute myopia.
  • "Because Israel is a small country, it gets dirty very easily."
  • "People should put their remains into the garbage can." – Disrespect for the departed.
  • "Israeli drivers use their zippers a lot and make a lot of noise." – No doubt leading to many cases of sprained wrists.

And a prime exemplar of linguistic ingenuity occurred when one of my own pupils in a class composition about the noise problem in Israel wrote: "Israeli drivers are horning in their cars."

One composition topic was: "Describe how a certain person has influenced your life."

  • "I am influenced by his amazing caricature."
  • "My grandmother is the most remarkable parson I have ever met." – Sexual equality amongst the clergy.
  • "I had very little friends and not even the smallest idea." – Snow White must have written this one.
  • "When I met Liat she opened up a new world in my face." – Didn't know she had a world in her face!
  • "When I get married and my husband does not like my sister, I will throw him up." - The way to a woman's heart is through her stomach.
  • "My father infected me."
  • "But then again, my grandfather died." – Who said that only cats have nine lives?
  • "She has been a basketball for three years." – Reincarnation of a sports addict.
  • "In addition to my parents, my mother influenced me."
  • "I come from a very preservative family." – The writer got into a fine pickle with that one!
  • "When I get married, I want my mother to improve my husband." – Smart girl!
  • "He changed my life from edge to edge." – A family of carpet layers.
  • "My grandmother is 70 years old. She is living with her mother who is 80 years old." – Married young in those days.

Other assorted jewels of erudition and inventive semantics:

  • "I feel more intimate with a paper book."
  • "Electronic books provide all the readers sensuous needs." – Kinky!
  • "I am now teaching at high school and my pupils come to insult with me from time to time." – Unfortunately, some colleagues are a pernicious influence!
  • "Speak to the teachers and see if they are human." – Why not? Everything is possible!
  • "We had an immigrated teacher." – Kids must have given him/her a rough time!
  • "They were survivors of a sheep that drowned." – Memoirs of a woolly mermaid.
  • "Wendy's noticeable was hesitated." – You go figure that out!
  • "A man can mount to nothing without education." – True! You have to learn how to get up on a horse.
  • "She married a black hatter." – An obvious reference to Alice in Mea Shearim.
  • "She enjoys exorcising." – The writer was in in good spirits.

In the three-point (lower level) examination, the dialogue answer, "Yes, you can ask me some questions!" was preceded by the examinee's interrogative in flawless Pidgin English: "I am lave dis is a newspaper he god?"

And finally, an overseas student in the United States describing a sports event in Florida: "A special competition speedboat carries the skier at 35 miles an hour towards a six feet rump." – Now, there is a known obesity problem in America, but this is carrying things to an extreme! 

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Wednesday, 17 July 2024

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