December 30, 2005


I'm in New York for the American Philosophical Association's Eastern Division meetings, and I'm having breakfast at the Art Cafe on Broadway, at 52nd Street. It's all bustling efficiency, staff zooming hither and thither. Two eggs up with bacon and wheat toast arrive within a couple of minutes. Suddenly there's a shattering crash from behind the counter, and the Greek proprietor is looking down mournfully at the coffee cup he dropped on the tile floor to smash into a thousand pieces. Four or five nearby waitresses turn in shock. For two seconds of silence they stare at the scene of the accident. And then one of the waitresses yells excitedly: "Opa!" — the traditional Greek cry of encouragement to dancers and musicians and drinkers at those wild parties where they smash plates on the floor as they dance just to show what a great time is being had. And then the entire staff cracks up, and they all resume working at high speed, but now laughing till tears come to their eyes — the boss included. It's only breakfast time in New York, but already, thanks to one well-chosen interjection, it's like a party.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at December 30, 2005 11:06 PM