Shredders ! Doncha love ‘em ! I bought a new one this morning because my last one had finally given up the ghost. It was a mean-spirited, wimpy thing made out of thin plastic that did nothing but make a self-pitying whine and whinge if I asked it shred anything more sturdy than a couple of sheets of fine tissue paper.
So I’ve got this new one. It’s bigger, black and somehow more…manly.
Before I set it up, I happened to glance at the instructions on the box- in four languages-English, German, French, and something full of vowels which I will call Dutch. It’s fascinating how national differences spring out from the tiniest pieces of text.
The English description is short, straightforward and to the point:
“6 sheet paper cross cut shredder”
Well, you can’t argue with that. The German description was much more allusive:
“ Sechs Blatt CrosscutAktentvernichter”
Six pages is obvious, as is the borrowed “ Cross cut” – but Aktenvernichter ! Do you know what it means ? Have you any idea ? It means “Destroyer” – this thing will destroy your Acts ! In fact it’s worse than that- “vernichten” means to annihilate, to reduce to nothing !
I’m looking at the black box under my desk with new respect. Is it some kind of Panzerschredder ? Have I just brought Death The Destroyer Of Worlds back from Staples Stationery Store ?
The French have a more flamboyant view:
“6 feuilles destructeur de documents a coupe croisse”
That’s got real style, don’t you think ? “ feuilles” for a start- which means “leaves” and not “pages”.” And the destructeur de documents is obviously a character from the “ The three Musketeers”- probably one of Richelieu’s bad boys.
“ Aha Monsieur, I, the Destroyer of Documents, will shred your paltry leaves with my cross cut Wiff ! Waff ! “
But I really like the Dutch version:
“6 vel papierverschnipperer”
This is a character from Hans Christan Andersen, isn’t it ? The thin,sharp eyed Papierverschnipperer- a kind of Dutch Edward Scissor Hands- who snips every bit of papier- 6 vels at a time. He would make a good excuse for Dutch schoolchildren, wouldn’t he ? “ I’m sorry, Meinheer, but the Papierverschnipperer cut up my homework !”
I’m looking at it now. It’s waiting, maw open wide, motor throbbing…it could have my arm off…don’t worry, I’ll be careful …I’ll….agh !”