When Did Life Turn Into an Endless Round of Q&A with People Who Have Boundary Issues?, or The Neverending Question of Doom

Whoever said “There’s no such thing as a stupid question” must have led a blissfully isolated life.

There are not many questions I genuinely hate. I usually have a comeback for every standard annoying question encountered during human interaction. Don’t believe me? Just watch:

“How are you?” – “Alive, thanks, yourself?”/”My own awesome self, but what happened to you?”

“How was your weekend?” – “*squints suspiciously* Why, what have you heard?”

“How old are you?” – “Multiply your IQ with the value of a unicorn soul, that’s my age in Mars years.”

“How much do you weigh?” – “As much as your mum when your dad is on top of her.”

“Are you dating anyone?” – “Do we still call it dating after close to ten years?”

“Why aren’t you married?” (This one follows usually after the ten year remark.) – “Because the Temple of the Howling Priests of Chaos is all booked until at least next year.”/”Because white clashes with my skin tone and marriage clashes with my life.”/”Is that a proposal? No, I’m serious, are you proposing right now? I got around 250 family members to invite, I need to let them know.”

“Are you going to have kids?” – “Yeah, with barbecue sauce. Why, you think they go better with teriyaki?”/”Sure, right after I’m back from my five year Mars mission.”

“Are you pregnant?” (Unless you’re a doctor asking me this for actual reasons, you’ll get this:) – “Well, I’ve volunteered to hatch some eggs from an endangered alien species discovered on Titan, so in a  manner of speaking, yeah, I am.”/”Why? Are you? I’m not sure I can give you advice there, honey, do you have a good gynaecologist?”

“What do you do?” – “Right now? Breathing, beating my heart like a motherfucker, digesting the hors d’oevres I just had, thinking about the state of the nation, making a mental note to drop by the dry cleaner’s tomorrow, oh, and talking, I’m also talking. Why, what are you doing?”/”I’m a group instructor at a zombie survival training camp.”

“How much do you earn?” (Kidding, no one asks me that, but anyway.) – “Not enough to buy my own planet, but I’m getting there.”/”I could afford your soul on a fixed monthly rate.”

“Are your nails real?” – “Yes, and they can cut glass.”

“Are your boobs real?” – “Well, they used to be my balls, so yeah, I guess. Never go to a discount surgeon, that’s all I’m saying.”/”Do I look like I have the kind of money to get a boob job? I can’t even buy my own planet!”/”Is your brain/face/dick real, because if not you should get a refund.”

“What’s the matter?” – “It’s 2015 and we don’t have hoverboards! My life is a lie!”/”Everything. Everything is matter. Oh, except energy.”

“How much did you study for X exam?” – “*hands held about two feet apart* About this much, give or take.”

“Why don’t you have a drink?” – “Because I don’t fucking want to right now, get off my case or I’ll whoop your ass as soon as you’re too drunk to fight back!”/”Because I don’t feel like throwing something in your face yet.”

Or: “Because of my legs.” – “Why? Do they swell?” – “No, they kick people. In the face.”

But the one question I can never get over is one that has haunted me for most of my life. It is the most annoying, most mind-numbingly flashback inducing string of words I can think of:

“Are you from Germany?”

I have been asked this question since about the moment I could talk. Why? Because I have an accent. During my school days this used to be the prelude to further verbal and, sometimes, physical abuse. Austrians hate Germans. The only ones who can out-hate Austrians are the French, and they just hate everything and everyone that isn’t French. They don’t mean anything by it. But Austrians? Oh, it’s on. Long has the brave little mountain monkey suffered under the yoke of its bigger brother (a struggle that basically amounts to “Baaaaww, they’re bigger and more well-known than us!”), but now it’s time for revenge! Which is delivered Austrian-style, that is, completely inefficient on a large scale.

During college it was merely polite interest and lack of conversation topics, and well, we do have a lot of German exchange students, but the damage was already done. And my face flushed and my heart raced and like a nightmare from beyond time itself…. I’m an Austrian with a German accent, and this is my unanswerable question. Why? Because people, that’s why. People ruin everything. Let’s suppose I say, no. Simply, no, I’m not from Germany. What is going to happen?

“But you sound German!”

Hrrrrnghgn, yes, I know, but I appreciate that you keep me informed. Now what do I do? Explain the complex process of language acquisition, the reason we call it “mother tongue”, effects of exposure to dialect patterns over time, as well as the influence of foreign TV on a young brain that is still acquiring it’s first language to people who think a phoneme is an android app? Why don’t I read Shakespeare to my aunt’s cat, or teach a politician honesty, or sell sunglasses to a flock of owls while I’m at it.

I could say, “I sound German because my grandparents are from Berlin. My mother acquired that accent from her mother. When I grew up, I acquired it too, because my dad, being not home that often, didn’t have that much linguistic influence on me during the formative years of language acquisition. Also, German TV. Lots of it.”

And then the asker just stands there dumbfounded, like this was somehow perverted linguist TMI. It probably was, because most people have no idea how language works.

I could say, “Sorry, shall I switch to Austrian?”

Because I can. I ‘speak’ a lot of accents and/or dialects (depends where you draw the line, really). I can do Berlin, Cologne, general northern German, Hochdeutsch, a general Austrian sounding one, and my Viennese has gotten a lot better over time. In English, I can do RP, some Northern sounding English, an East Coast sounding American English thing, and Valley Girl (because it’s fun, suck it up.) It’s all a matter of manipulating a few choice sounds.

But then the asker looks at me like I’m crazy, because dialect switching? The fuck is that? Never mind that absolutely everyone does it subconsciously. You talk to your boss? You use something close to the standardised variety. You talk with your mates? You use deepest dialect from the streets you grew up on. It’s not fucking rocket science and you’re not even trying.

I could also say, “You look like a moron, are you from Moronia?”

But that’s mean. So I don’t do it. Unless I lose my temper because I’ve been asked the same damned question all day long and actually all life long! Make it stop! Just accept that accents don’t mean a damn thing, not with the way people are running around the planet at an ever growing pace! Make it stoooooop! Ask me about my day, my pets, my sex life, my parent’s sex life, anything, just stooooop!


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