Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker


Laura is Italian. Italian Italian, not New York Italian. She travels a lot, though she is finicky. These behaviors mesh well: she has, for example, found the perfect shampoo on her travels. Made and sold, however, only in Malaysia. She bought it last time in Macau, she says, in a black market. Three cases. She is unsatisfied with other than her brands. To me, they look like knock-offs of American products, or the equivalent of generic brands. She likes them. She prefers a particular brand of bar soap from Switzerland, a certain hard candy from Bangkok, a variety of Peruvian potato unknown in North America, Swedish cheese, Turkish incense, Egyptian figs or dates or some prunish looking thing, and Colorado free range turkey from a certain dab of land near Fort Collins. Yesterday she called all excited. “Okay, so you know how I’ve been missing my brands? My shopping? Here’s my new plan. Everyday, I will visit each store and ask them if they have what I want. I know they don’t, because I’ve asked before, but I will ask anyway. Excuse me, do you have the Pulp-o orange juice? Pardon me, do you not carry Bar-Boy litchi gummy candy? I was wondering if you had Prithee hypoallergenic shampoo? “Everyday I’ll ask a different clerk. “So then, later, when they’re ordering stock, it’ll be like a bunch of people were asking for it, and they’ll starting carrying stuff just for me.” How are they going to get these things if you can’t? “They run stores. This is what they do. They’re all from someplace else, anyway. They’ll just call a brother-in-law.” So they’re going to buy all this merchandise for you? What happens when they only sell one or two a week? “No way. This stuff is good. Once they start carrying it, everybody will want it.” Then you won’t be able to find it again. “I’ll stock up.”

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Grant Barrett