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Most of my Japanese students swear by their dictionaries.  They take so much stock in the translated word that they often lose touch with what’s really going on.  This is really ironic considering the fact that second guessing the speaker is the art of the Japanese conversation.  Those who lack the skill are called “KY” (kooki yomenai), literally one who can’t read the air. We might say something like clueless or out of synch.

To help them appreciate how useless dictionary translations can sometimes be, and how important it is to pay attention to context and tone, I enlisted the aid of Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco translating Mafia jargon for a couple of corky FBI agents who just don’t get it.

Actually, I tell them Brasco is holding out on the Feds; Forget about it can mean a lot more than the four examples he gives.  I give them the full Monty with these dialogues that reveal some eighteen different meanings for the all purpose expression Forget about it.

Since the tone of the expression is so important here, you’ve got to act out each dialogue.  Otherwise, forget about it!

1 Yes

Flunky: Hey, Boss, I’m goin’ out for a pizza. You hungry?

Mr. D: Am I hungry? Forget about it! I could eat a horse!

2 No

Woman: Come on Bob, let’s go to the ballet. I wanna show off my new oufit.

Mr. D: What? And watch a buncha gay guys prance around? Forget about it.

3 Fantastic!

Maitre d’: How’s the pasta, Mr. D?. Luigi made it extra special for you.

Mr. D: This pasta? Forget about it! Even my dear Mama couldn’t a done better, God rest her soul.

4 Disgusting!

Flunky: This stiff’s been layin here for a week.

Mr. D: Yeah. It stinks to high hell! Wo! Forget about it!

5 Thank you

Kid: Daddy, I got you this for your birthday.

Mr. D: You got this for your old man? Forget about it! What a kid I got!

6 You’re welcome

Woman: Oh Bobby! A real Hermes bag! Thank you, Honey. You’re such a sweetie!

Mr. D: Forget about it. Nothin’s too good for you, Babe.

7 I don’t know

Buddy: Hey, where’d Joey get off to?

Mr. D: You askin’ me about Joey’s whereabouts? Forget about it.

8 Impossible

Buddy: Joey says he’s gonna take over your territory.

Mr. D: Joey’s gonna take over? Forget about it!

9 You’re dead!

Mr. D: I send you to Vegas on a major job and you take my money and hit the tables?

Bag man: Boss, I’m really sorry. Gimme another chance. I’ll get it all back.

Mr. D: Hey punk, I got one word for you: Forget about it.

10 I quit

Dealer: Gentlemen, ante up. This game’s gettin’ hot.

Mr. D: Forget about it. I gotta see a man about a horse.

11 Don’t bother

Officer: We gotta man down. Somebody call EMS!

SGT D: Forget about it. EMS ain’t gonna do him no good.

12 Don’t worry

Buddy: Bobby, they done me good this time.  I’m finished.

Mr. D:  Forget about it, Buddy.You’re gonna be just fine.

13 Screw you

Buddy: You know, you look like a real paisano in that hat.

Mr. D: Hey, whada you know ’bout fashion.  Forget about it!

14 You’re kidding!

Buddy: Look at this – some egg-head blogger says there’s eighteen different meanings for  “forget about it”!

Mr. D: Eighteen?!  Forget about it!

15 Yes We Can

Buddy: Joey says this job’s too big, we can’t do it.

Mr. D: Forget about it! It’s a piece a’ cannoli!

16 Everything’s arranged

Buddy: We gotta make air reservations for Italy,

and get our passports renewed.

Mr. D: Forget about it!

Just make sure you show up at JFK.

17 Forget about it.

Flunky: That was some deal you pulled off with the mayor’s wife.

Mr. D: If you don’t wanna wind up in the East River you better just forget about it.

18 Hopeless

Flunky: Boss, I been trying to figure this thing out, but I still don’t get it.

Mr. D: You still don’t get it? Forget about it!

© Dane Degenhardt, Monde Dane, 2009