My Dinner with Andre - An Elliptical Bit of Dialogue
A Korean friend contacted me recently with a query prompted by one of her Korean friends who was trying to understand a line of dialogue in an American film:
She can't figure out the underlined phrase, and neither can I. Can you? I don't know what movie the lines are out of, but I don't think watching the movie would make it intelligible.The lines sounded distantly familiar, but I couldn't place them, so I Googled the underlined line, "and we drank instant coffee out of the top of my shaving cream," which led me to My Dinner with Andre, and that got my old brain whirring. I wrote back:
Grotowski and I got together at midnight in my hotel room in Belgrade, and we drank instant coffee out of the top of my shaving cream, and we talked from midnight till 11:00 the next morning.
As for "we drank instant coffee out of the top of my shaving cream," the line is from a film by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn (both of whom wrote and starred in it), My Dinner with Andre, which I saw way back in 1981 as a young grad student at Berkeley. You should see it sometime, too.My response was accepted:
I think the sentence is elliptical and that the only thing it can mean is "we drank instant coffee out of the top of my shaving cream can."
Andre is describing a manic time in his life when he acted on impulse, and the unfinished statement reflects that time.
Literally, he used the plastic top that fit on the spray end of his shaving cream can to serve as a cup for holding instant coffee, and he and his friend Jerzy Grotowski, a Polish theater director, both drank from that same 'cup' in Andre's Belgrade hotel room.
Oh, Jeff, thank you so much for your kind explanation . . .At your service - always ready to help the friend of a friend! Moreover, the successful search brought back many old memories from my early graduate-school years, so I gained some unexpected pleasure from responding to the request.