At the back of the hill

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Years ago, when I lived for a while in a residential hotel in North Beach with all the weirdos -- a necessary stage in my development after my dad had sent me back to the States for an education -- I picked up conversational Cantonese. There were five active Chinese movie theatres in the area at that time, and I learned the language by absorbing what the dashing criminals and polished charlatans on screen were saying. Context would often clarify the meanings, and the Cantonese love watching tales of derring do, or derring darn well everything.

Eloquent rogues getting away with staggering chicanery and unbelievable bluff will naturally make hearts beat faster.

None of the Triad members or lone wolves in those movies was a plumber. Or dealt with plumbing in any way. Or was ever confronted with a slow dripping leak from a tap, or a drain that was plugged beyond all hope of redemption. Pipes, sinks, and tubs, showerheads, faucets, and cisterns; seemingly none of these affected their lives.

There were no hairballs at all.

Consequently, while I could lisp like a rancid old pervert, talk smack with juvenile delinquents, flirt with lovely girls, and snarl curses with the best of them, I had no vocabulary whatsoever for the bathroom.

This became an issue when a co-tenant had a problem with his sink.

And I was the only non-monolingual person on site.

The building manager was Chinese.


Follows a list of vocabulary items that would have been extremely useful at that time. As it was, I was reduced to making bold declarations that roughly translated to "water bucket thingy all buggered-up, it's wet everywhere, he's totally hosed, poor sod, alas, what bad luck!".
That, and "moist mess", had to suffice until the plumber came.

Along with a word that must not be printed.

Plumber: 水喉匠 ('seui hau jeung'); "water-gullet craftsman". Cantonese usage.
Plumbing (in general): 通渠 ('tong keui'); "pass-through drainage". Cantonese usage.
Plumber, plumbing expertise: 水瀧、水龍('seui lung'). Cantonese usage. 瀧 = rapids, torrents, gushing.

Bathroom, toilet: 廁所 ('chi so'); "lavatorial location".
Bathroom for bathing: 沖涼房 ('chung lueng fong', "bathing room"); 洗身房 ('sai san fong', "wash body room"); 浴室 ('yuk sat', "wash chamber").
Bath tub: 浴缸 ('yuk gong', "wash vat"), 沖涼缸 ('chung leung gong'; "steep cold vat"), 浴池 ('yuk chi', "bath pool").
缸 = vat, 池 = pool.
Bathing room, wash room: 洗澡間 ('saai chou gan').
Lavatory, loo: 盥洗室 ('gwun sai sat'); "wash & rinse room".
Drain pipe: 排水管 ('paai seui gwun'); "remove water tube".
Sewage: 廢水 ('fai seui'), 髒水 ('jong seui').
Sink: 水槽 ('suei chou').
Shower: 淋浴 ('lam yuk').
Toilet: 馬桶 ('lam tong'); "horse bucket".
Wash basin: 洗手盆 ('sai sau pun'); "hand wash basin".
Overflow, brimming over:滿溢 ('mun yat').
Plugged up, clogged: 堵塞 ('dou sak').
Spout, spray, spurt: 噴水 ('pan seui').
Leak: 淦 ('gam').
Unstoppable leaking: 漏不停 ('lau pat ding'); "leak not stop".

Overflow: 瀰 ('mei'); rarely used.
Billowing: 灎 ('yam'); what on earth is going on in your toilet?!?.
Sopping wet: 灦 ('haahm'). Good lord, it's a mess!
Swirling, eddying: 瀠 ('ying'); that's a very poetic description of the problem, don't you think?.

This came to mind this morning, as the bathtub hasn't been able to drain for five days or so. The plumber came -- it is finally my weekend, hence the necessary delay -- and snaked it. Took less than five minutes. He remarked that if the occupants of this apartment had been long haired young women (one of the words he used was "blonde"), it would have been much worse.
Hairy space aliens.

Anyhow, the tub now drains.

I am tempted to see if I can find someone to bathe with me.

Celebratorily, of course.


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