Anyone in the U. of K. and not moving quickly enough to avoid it will have to complete a census form, providing what will be a snapshot of who is doing what, with whom, and where, on 27 March 2011. Being the good citizen that I am I have just completed the form interposed herewith at the Maison Des Girrafes, noting – with relief – that it does not ask anything about the names, genders, species, qualifications or general health of one’s pets. Had that happened we’d have been here all night.
I did note, however, an accessory leaflet noting down the many languages in which translations of the questions are supplied. There are fifty-six in all (not including Welsh, for which separate arrangements are made), showing what a multitudinous and polygluttonous country we are. The existence of some of these languages, I confess, was news to mes oreilles. Just for the record, the languages were (deep breath) –
Akan/Twi-Fante, Albanian, Amharic, Arabic, Bengali, Bosnian/Croatian, Bulgarian, Cantonese, Czech, Dutch, Filipino (Tagalog), French, German, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Hungarian, Igbo, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Kurdish (Kurmanji and Sorani), Latvian, Lingala, Lithuanian, Luganda, Malay, Malayalam, Mandarin, Nepalese, Pahari, Pashto, Persian/Farsi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi (
Country AND Western Gurmukhi AND Shahmuki), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Shona, Sinhala, Slovak, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Thai, Tigrinya, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese, Yoruba, and … wait for it … Yiddish.
The guidance notes says that all the questions have to be completed in English or Welsh – the documents in these various other languages are merely helpful notes. The last language option (the second-to-last, actually, but I put it last because it seemed funnier that way) did make me wonder how some of the guidance notes might be pitched.
– If your mother isn’t staying with you, say that she isn’t, no matter what she says;
– No, you don’t have to say that she keeps asking you if you’ve eaten, or whether you’re wearing a sweater;
– No, ‘hurty feet’ does not count as a major disability;
– No, you can’t put your occupation as schlmiel just because your mother says you don’t love her enough to become a tax lawyer;
– If you’re a palaeontologist, say so. Don’t put ‘doctor’ because your father can’t bring himself to say ‘my son, the palaeontologist’.
– If you broke your parents’ hearts by marrying that shiksa you schtupped in college, say ‘married’. What deal you might make with Ha’Shem is your own business;
– Whatever you do, take time to fill out this form in a nice, quiet place, free from stress, kibitzing, kvetching, schmoozing or other interruptions. We’d be happy to grant you an extension.