My opponent folded after the first round!

I was ‘cautiously optimistic as I parked in the lot down near Hertzlia. Channel 2 TV’s studios are satisfyingly dis-organized, but in an good way.
Shira, a friend (ok, ‘spy’), works there in make-up caught my gaze on the way in, gave me a sly ‘thumbs-up‘ and mouthed ‘Vowels‘ With that I knew it might  end well.
‘The Language Games’ they call the show. Every two weeks a new ‘pair’ of tongues face off. Richness, expressive capabilities, adaptability to the modern era seem to have been the gist of the ‘secret’ questions on previous episodes which I watched in an effort to prepare. Having being assigned ‘English’ in a battle against ‘Hebrew’ I was betting on at least a TKO.
What I wasn’t ready for was the identity of my Opponent(!) Also a secret   ( a deliberate TV-biz strategy meant to foster drama, surprise, and authentic demeanor) I recognized her immediately. A truly worthy contender, a long-since Israeli-immigrant technical writer, fluent as expected from someone of her high-octane background in both the competing languages.
We shook hands, which oddly required two takes(?) Later on I guessed that the the director, who’d changed the camera angles between shots, was less than thrilled by the thinly-disguised look of pity on my face. Damn! Had I not lip-read the ‘Vowels’ clue from Shira, I coulda done a nice little ‘Pity me, a lamb to the slaughter’ shrug.
At any rate, enough suspence:

After the opening splash-clip (loud as hell on the monitors; Israelis love to turn everything up to ten(!), we were seated at two tables, split-screen, I assume. The ‘letter-turner girl, her outfit a perfect shade chosen to contrast with the drapes, handed us each a generous quantity of blank cards, and the ‘Talent’, (the announcer/moderator) gave us the First challenge:

“Here are two letters, roughly equivalent in both languages. You have 5 minutes to write all the words createable from them. Go!”

Ok, I had ‘F’ and ‘L’, my opponent had ‘Peh/Feh and ‘Lamed’. Sounds fair, no?
Um, not to me!
Note, the same Hebrew character serves for both ‘P’ and ‘F’ depending whether it has a fly-shit dot hiding in the middle. If English were that pathetic it’d be the difference between a ‘part’ and a ‘fart’.
I thought quickly; I could of course ‘pause the action’ (a classic ‘poison-pill’ move I’d used, only in emergencies, way back in the ’70s, when tape-splicing was a total bitch. You demonstratively pick your nose until the Director yells ‘Cut!!‘ If anyone’s curious.
And yet…. and yet we been told clearly that Vowels were Kosher. So I relaxed, almost smelling a walk-over.

Took me all of 20 seconds to legibly print the following list:

Note, anyone never actually having been on a game show can be forgiven for the voyeur’s bravado of assuming he’ll remember the capital of Montana under pressure. Cameras churning, stage-hands handing, count-down musics blaring:    in reality you’ll torture yourself for generations, watching the sad clip, the roar of the grease-paint screaming ‘Boise? Bozeman?? Byzantia???

My job finished, I allowed myself to eye the other ‘boxer in the ring’.
She looked glum… Big-time glum. I felt a sympathy, inadvisable in conflict, for her gruesome Fate.

Two cards. ‘That all she wrote’, as they say.
After the commercial break, the judges compared our entries:
Hers were, in toto;
‘P(i)L’ (pronounced ‘peel’ it’s the generic name for an elephant
And… ‘F(u)L (‘Fool’: a lima bean.
Yup. ‘Meager/Meagre does come to mind…

The Moderator walked over to shake my hand, while yada-yada-ing the script-tease for the next round “coming right up, after this!”

But Susan had had quite enough! One of the surest ways to declare ‘end-of-interview’ is the thud in the Audio engineer’s cans when the ‘victim’ ‘drops’ the lapel stick-on mic on the desk.
A hint of a tear in her left eye told me that the studio all-purpose shmooze-team, already approaching her position with consolation in their body language, might not convince her to recant.
I listened discretely to their entreaties… and her remonstrations. And by the time she swiped her hand across her throat and switched to the Spanish ‘No Mas!’ familair to boxing fans, I knew I’d likely be fighting ‘Road 2’ traffic the wrong direction back home after ‘an early dismissal.’

Epilogue: The show, to my disappointment or relief (choose one) was never aired. It may still be in the vaults (or the Cloud) as we speak under the Heading ‘Vowels: don’t leave home without ’em!’
And I did manage to contact her a week later by phone. A sigh of relief hearing her up-beat ‘bounce-back-from defeat’ take on the incident.

“Next time you’l wear the fucking Dead Sea Scroll-down trunks, and I’ll be da Vowel-Goddess! Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee! I’m the Greatest”
In English at least, I couldn’t even start to argue with her point. Not that I’m working on a rematch. although losing to a sweetheart like her does have a certain charm.


16 thoughts on “My opponent folded after the first round!

  1. somewittyhandle

    I would have been distracted by the invigilator’s failure to specify the order of the letters:

    “Here are two letters, roughly equivalent in both languages. You have 5 minutes to write all the words createable from them. Go!”

    I would have wasted precious time with


    1. solberg73 Post author

      Thinking, I suppose, that the narrator here decided to save ammo for the appeal? Or to go easy on the opponent.
      A language without meaningful, printable vowels is condemned to invertebrate status, I say.
      I was hoping to receive ‘S’ and ‘T’, actually: Hebrew makes from them one(1) option, and a ‘loan-word’ at that “set” (an accumulation of related items)
      Whilst English metaphorically ‘plays golf on the Moon’ with the pair:
      But I must admit that Hebrew does have compensatory strong points in certain areas… just that they are hard to put into words..

  2. somewittyhandle

    I cede also, on the basis that my entry was a willfully obtuse misinterpretation of the rules. Extrapolating my cheat to s and t,

    1. solberg73 Post author

      An honorable entry, Duncan
      One of the perks of my fictionalized game show is the right to change the rules… and outcome. My opponent has been advised of this post, and I await a slander/libel claim, ha.
      All in good fun.

    1. solberg73 Post author

      Decided to skate through with the ‘FOUL’ version; mentioning ‘W’ might have led to a fruitless discussion, and I wanted to get home and watch the show while eating alphabet soup on the couch. Didn’t happen, of course.
      (This account, fictitious of course, draws heavily on an actual appearance there at that studio.


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