Tut like you mean it

A Liverpudlian soccer player currently on loan to a club in Marseille had the sporting and linguistic communities chattering this week when he coated his native scouse accent in a faux French one at a press conference. Some laughed, and it was kind of funny, but others cried foul, claiming it bad form to publicly send up his host nation. The scientific line is that he probably couldn’t help himself, because it is in our DNA to adapt to our surroundings – and that includes taking on the nuances of inflection indigenous to wherever we happen to be. I happen to be in Berlin. And while I haven’t quite reached the point where I exchange my Ich’s for the local Icke’s, I could if pressed.

The one bit of Berlin vernacular I can’t ever see myself adopting, however, is the beloved tut. It is used with abandon in this city, largely in queues, as a means of making everyone within earshot know that dissatisfaction is in the room with them. I find it unsettling to stand with my back to a tutter. And generally cursed with the kind of politeness that prevents me from turning around to look at the offender, I find myself wondering whether he or she is disgruntled enough to start shoving and shouting, or worse.

My imagination reached new levels the other day, when I was found myself in front of a hardcore tutter at a doctor’s reception desk. As I stood just a few centimetres away from him, listening to the sound of his tongue click madly against the roof of his mouth, I tried to imagine what he might look like. I saw him as a wiry man in a cape (don’t know why), with eyes that shifted in time with his feet. When he began to add ehhh’s into the mix of impatience he was breathing down my neck, I decided to take action. I turned around.

What I saw was a cape less man clutching a very bloody finger, his face contorted in pain. I told him he could go in front of me, move up in the queue, but for whatever reason he declined. So we stayed as we were: me in front of him, he tutting like he meant it. Only now I was questioning my grasp of Berlinerisch, and wondering which  of us was the impatient one.

“Tut, tut, child! … Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it” (Lewis Carroll).

Category: Berlin, Perception | Tags: , ,

One comment on “Tut like you mean it

  1. I like the moral here – you just have to be bold enough to turn around to find it – and the story too!

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