This comes in three installments. And it got better every time.
One day in early October, I was helping out with an English lesson since, you know, that's my job. I've kind of gotten used to the fact that there is information all around me that I cannot really read. When I see English, though, I tend to gravitate in on it because I'm actually much more used to being surrounded by information I CAN read but do not actually care about (advertisements, etc.).
So when I happened to notice English at the back of the room, I read it very quickly. And when I read it, I almost giggled right out loud. And after that, I kept looking back at it and trying not to giggle. Because it was just so... well, look at it:
I later examined the words at the top of the board, and saw that they were "something for this month" .. later actually translated to "A murmur of this month." This made it even more fun, since I kind of felt that way about October, too. But it just cracked me up that a kid wrote this, and put it up. I assumed it was one of our brash and outspoken guys, and wondered where he might have learned it.
I also began to imagine it as myself, amidst a sea of kanji and other Japanese writing... me, not alone, but standing out, in English.. crying out this phrase, in surprise, and horror, and delight. It seemed a good image for how I sometimes feel in Japan.
I was eating lunch in this classroom, and it was a totally different experience from eating lunch with any other grade level, ever. The third-years actually talk to me, and are not afraid to struggle through English to attempt a chat. After asking them their names and a bit of gossip about who had a girlfriend (it's apparently a big secret if you do.. we're all part of the Ichinan family, though!), I just had to ask.
"Who.." (giggle) "Who put that up, over there, on the board?"
They all looked at it, and then pointed to one boy in particular, whom I honestly had not suspected. He, it turns out, is the son of one of my adult students in the conversation class. This made me laugh even more, because it meant that maybe, he didn't learn it at school.. maybe he learned it from his parent, who learned it from Big Brother or from Predecessor. I tried to imagine them teaching a lesson, or accidentally dropping that phrase so often it became part of someone's vernacular. I then tried to imagine that particular student whose son it was picking up that phrase in her daily life. No. Way.
So, I was going through all this in my head, and then one of the student leaders (I was basically at a desk cluster full of them) turned back to me and said "Holy shitto? Holy shitto. What means, in Japanese?" I was overcome. I also had my mouth full of food. I also can't translate that.. there really is no Japanese direct equivalent. I just shook my head and said I didn't know, but that it wasn't something you wanted to say to someone's parents.
Which is totally vague, and just left them confused. This particular student frowned (not in an upset way, just in a I-will-discover-the-truth kind of way) and left the room. I know that he probably went next door to ask Awesome-Sensei what it was in Japanese. He returned with no answer. I tried to imagine how that conversation had just gone. No way. No. Way!
The student whose son it is doesn't come to class all that often, but she was at my birthday dinner. I had a beer or two, and then there I was telling her that her son put something on the board that made me laugh and laugh. She assured me that he is crazy, her son, and asked what he put up. I didn't want to tell her, but I had to have known she would ask, so I told her (and the rest of the table).
The adult students had pretty much the same reaction "Can you translate that for us?" .. Big Brother cracked up when one lady (our leader, actually) was like "(Tell me holy.) I know shit!" So I spelled holy for them to look up in their dictionaries, but then I had to explain that this phrase is different than the sum of its parts. We tried to field a suitable equivalent, but there aren't really a lot of curse words in Japanese.
But I was still curious as to where he'd learned it, and his mother then mentioned "Oh, he heard it on this video game," and I instantly asked, "Was it Grand Theft Auto?"
And yes, dear readers, it was indeed GTA, and she was amazed that I had guessed so quickly.
Grand Theft Auto, in case you've never played, is a game full or violence and maybe even a little sex, and you get more points the worse person you are, basically. You steal cars and run from the police and run over/shoot down as many people as you can in the process.
Or, the few times I've played, that's how I played. I tried to procure this game once, because I was having a bad day, or a bad week, and I turned to my then-roommate and said, "I need a video game like GTA. I really want to beat up some hookers right now." But GTA 3 was not backwards compatible for my Xbox360, so you can imagine how I felt after I was already frustrated enough to want to beat up virtual hookers, at putting the game in to discover it would not work.
Anyway, in this moment, on my birthday, it made the entire saga that much more wonderful, to know that he had learned these words from a video game.