#2. Correcting the Pronunciation of Foreign Words
Bobert Rockway was in class one day -- yes, ladies, he takes classes to better himself in between shark races and hot air balloon fights -- when a shy classmate began relaying a relevant personal anecdote to the other students. Rockway had more pressing matters on his mind at the time -- I believe he may have been remote-defusing some kind of panty bomb -- so he doesn't remember the details of the story. But at one point, the girl related that she had bought a Coke from the "fell-uh-fell" stand outside. The teacher immediately interrupted her tale and asked, "Did you mean fuh-LAH-fuhl?" The entire class laughed snidely, and the girl lapsed back into silence. Rockway quickly finished tele-defusing the underwear ordnance, back flipped across the table, and snapped the snide instructor's neck with a transcendentally executed pile driver. But the damage had already been done: The girl had been shamed for never having had occasion, in her short life, to purchase a fried chickpea dish in person.
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"I mean, what kind of ASSHOLE do you have to be to have never ordered fried bean paste from a swarthy cart man?"
Mind you, nobody busted out laughing when she first mispronounced the word -- only when the teacher immediately, shittily corrected her for it. This is a huge part of why people correct any social faux pas: It's not that they want to instruct the discourteous party, or even that they're offended at the mistake -- they're leaping at the chance to show that they know something somebody else doesn't. They want a public acknowledgment, no matter how brief and petty, that they are somehow superior in the realm of Arabic street food elocution. In this case, the teacher wasn't a Middle Eastern man trying to preserve his culture -- it was a 30-something white guy trying to get inappropriately laid by his impressionable young students at the expense of somebody's dignity.
This needs to stop, not because I advocate and foster cultural ignorance in all of its forms, but because everybody says something wrong habitually. I love burritos: They're like sandwiches you can take on a roller coaster. But I technically have no idea how to say the word "burrito." I'm pretty sure you're supposed to roll the double "R," somehow -- like, maybe you turn your head and spin around while you're saying it. No fucking clue. I'm not saying that correcting somebody makes you an asshole, but there's a very simple way to do it that doesn't embarrass anybody. You just find an occasion to say the word correctly yourself, a minute or two later: "Man, since you mentioned falafel, all I can think about is falafel now. Do you want to grab some falafel and then maybe bone a little bit on top of that falafel?"
See that? You just advanced somebody's knowledge in a way that doesn't shame them, and also got drilled atop a steaming mash of chickpeas and tahini. That is the very dictionary definition of "victory."
#1. Enforcing Pretty Much Any Dining Etiquette
If you're out for a fancy dinner at some esteemed establishment with vaguely racist undertones, by all means, practice your finest restaurant etiquette. But if you ever catch yourself telling somebody to keep their elbows off the table at a White Castle, kindly shut all of your fucks in the upright position. Listen, I have worked in the restaurant industry -- mostly at those aforementioned fancy private dining establishments old enough to have been, at some point, a fully functional plantation -- and I can promise you one thing: There has been a dick gently laid on every inch of table space you're using. This goes doubly true at places like White Castle. I don't mean it's more likely at a fast food joint; I mean literally there have been two cocks resting, one atop the other, in a Frankfurt Dogpile, exactly where you just set down your Sierra Mist. I promise you, wherever you choose to place your elbows, be they resting on the lip of a plastic table or softly brushing against the dignified surface of a 19th century leather dining chair, you are putting your eatin' parts where minimum wage employees have drunkenly fucked away their customer service rage.
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"I say, does this pinot gris stink of sex and fury to you, Madison?"
Next time you're about to correct somebody on which type of fork is appropriate for a cool summer salad versus a more hefty autumnal fare, stop and remind yourself that it has absolutely been up some cook's ass before. I have known many, many chefs in my lifetime. They are awful, crass, wonderful human beings. If the sous chef hasn't shoved that soup spoon in his rectum for a drunken laugh, then the head chef has shanked your entree fork into the butt-meat of some idiot prep cook for daring to ask what the difference between buttermilk and heavy cream is. Eating is not, by its very nature, a dignified affair. You're shoveling flesh and dirt-fruit into a hole filled with spit so you don't die. You can cram food into your mouth with two fists and some determination and achieve the exact same results. Let's not suddenly pretend like we're the dowagers of Downton Abbey at dinnertime: Elbows go on the table because they are the fulcrums of the food-levers that are our forearms, and if you can get steak in your face with a shrimp fork, you go for it.
It's just less surface area exposed to chef-butt that'll be gracing your mouth.
Buy Robert's stunning, transcendental, orgasmic science fiction novel, Rx: A Tale of Electronegativity, right here. Or buy Robert's other (pretty OK) book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead. Follow him on Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.