shadow

As seen on TV

One evening early this summer, I gave a Burmese refugee family living in a complex near Bill's a ride to their daughter's graduation. When I pulled up to their apartment, the mom and three kids were outside, dressed in their fanciest outfits, carrying a giant, steaming tray of scallion-studded noodles.

One evening early this summer, I gave a Burmese refugee family living in a complex near Bill's a ride to their daughter's graduation. When I pulled up to their apartment, the mom and three kids were outside, dressed in their fanciest outfits, carrying a giant, steaming tray of scallion-studded noodles.

In the car, the mom and I quickly exhausted the 30 words of English we had in common ("School very far!" "Your dress is so pretty!") and lapsed into friendly silence. After a time, the 4-year-old - edibly cute in a ruffly yellow dress, patent leather shoes, and pigtails - started talking to herself, repeating three syllables that sounded like: "Wah tah heh."

At first I assumed she was speaking Burmese, but none of the others seemed to get it, either. She kept trying different pronunciations, getting louder and clearer, until I realized that what she was repeating over and over, in an incredulous little squeak, was: "What the hell?"

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