Bob and the Magic Hats

 Image courtesy slimmer_jimmer, creative commons license (see license information here)

Bob the Biologist was excited about the day.  He was on his way to meet his father.  It was Bob’s father’s sixty-first birthday. Bob’s father was a tall slender man with an aquiline nose, whose friends called him Twiggy.  Twiggy was a linguist and traveled around the world.  He collected hats from every country he visited and he liked wearing flamboyant hats from his unique collection all the time.  Twiggy was fluent in many languages and knew people who were polyglots too.

At the Party …

Bob arrived at his father’s house with his friend Tony. Twiggy was surrounded by visitors – they were all his students.  Twiggy was expecting many visitors since his students had planned a large birthday party for him that evening.  Twiggy had taught them linguistics and foreign languages and they were all having conversations in different languages. Bob went up to his father and gave him a big hug.  Twiggy was very excited to see Bob and he introduced Bob to his other guests.  After a few minutes, Bob realized that no one was speaking English any more.  Most people were speaking in foreign languages that Bob could not even understand. Bob felt like he did not belong there.  He was disappointed and he was very sad.  He wanted to get away.  So he wandered off into the other rooms of the house and before he knew it, he was in the attic.  The attic was dusty and it looked like no one had been there in a while. There were several boxes neatly lined up next to the wall.  They all had books and journals written in different languages.  The other wall was decorated with many beautiful and unique hats.  Strangely, these hats had no dust on them.

Interesting Party Hats

Bob decided to try on a hat just for fun.  He picked out a sombrero – a large hat with a very wide brim.  It was made out of shiny black felt and velvet and was decorated with beautiful golden thread.  Just as Bob put on the sombrero, his best friend Tony walked into the attic. Bob was happy to see Tony and when he opened his mouth to greet him, Bob said “Hola Tony! ¿Que pasa?” Tony said, “K-what? Since when do you speak Spanish?” (In Spanish “que” is pronounced the same as the letter “K” in English). Bob took off his sombrero and said, “What are you talking about? Let me repeat what I said: Hey Tony, what’s up? I wasn’t speaking Spanish.” “Sure you were!” said Tony. Bob was shocked.  He did not know he could speak Spanish.  So he put the sombrero back on and said, “¿Mi papa te vio?” Tony replied, “Si, señor. Your father did see me.  But you are speaking Español again.”

Bob Is Now Able to Speak All Kinds of Languages!

Bob took off the sombrero and said, “It must be the hat.  Hold on, let me try something else.” This time he put on a beret that was on the wall and said “Comment allez vous Tony?”  Tony replied, “Je vais bein. Merci.  Je parle Français.  That means: I am well.  Thank you. I speak French. Wow, Bob, you are speaking French very well too!” Now Bob was very excited and amused.  He deduced that it must be the hats that are helping him speak the different languages. “Bien,” he said, and switched the beret for a turban that was also on the wall.  The turban was made out of golden fabric and had a large emerald brooch in the center. Now he said “Tony, mein kaisa lag raha hõ?” Tony said “Bob I have no idea what you said but you look like a Maharaja.  Are you speaking in Hindi?” Bob took off the turban and said, “I guess I was! I was asking you, how do I look?” Now Tony tried on the turban and said, “Tum joker jaise lag rahe thai, par mein accha lag raha hõ.” Now Bob looked confused. He did understand the word “joker”, so he was sure that whatever Tony said wasn’t exactly a compliment. Tony explained, “I was saying you looked like a joker, but I look nice.” Bob was so excited that he did not even get upset with Tony for calling him a joker. He said, “Tony do you realize what this means?  Now we can speak any language we want as long as we have one of these magic hats.  I think I want to speak Hindi this evening so I will wear the Maharaja turban.  Tony what do you want to speak?” Tony decided he would wear an Ushanka.  Can you guess which language he will be speaking?  



Shaped like an eagle’s beak or hooked.


Someone who studies linguistics which is a study of the science of languages.


Something that is bold and showy, with bright colors or large patterns.


Something that is bold and showy, with bright colors or large patterns.


Able to speak a language well.


A person who is able to speak or write several languages.


From a different country; foreign


Talking to someone, exchanging ideas.


To understand or grasp clearly.


To go somewhere with no reason or purpose.


A magazine or periodical published by a special group about their research and discoveries.


Existing as one and only item of its kind.


A broad brimmed hat with a tall crown, made of straw or felt worn in Spain and Mexico.


This is how Spanish is said in the Spanish language


A soft cap fitted closely around the head with a bigger top and no visor.


This is how French is said in the French language.


This is how French is said in the French language.


A headdress usually for men in Southern Asia made out of a long piece of fabric wrapped around the head.


A clasp or pin with decorative design or jewels on it.


A thick wollen cap with a lid of ears that ties under the chin, usually worn in Russia.

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