Wednesday, November 06, 2019


After voting at the lugar de votante near my residencia, I went over to Grant Avenue. From the foregoing you may deduce that Spanish is not my primary language. It actually isn't in the first ten, but it is widely spoken here. So it behooves me to learn a few words beyond taco truck phrases.

I'm cool with other people speaking in tongues nearby.

I am fairly confident it's not about me.

Two old gentlemen on the bus were talking in Cantonese about fish, quietly, and I felt like asking one of them 你係邊度嘅人啊? 你嘅發音好清楚。
I didn't, because it might have underlined that the other one had such a thick country accent that he was almost unintelligible, and even if that did not happen, it might have steered the conversation in a different direction. Which, given that my own Cantonese is not 100% 清楚 by any standard, is not a place I would wish to go.

My ability in Cantonese is fine for grocery shopping, going to restaurants, and having simple conversations with people in bakeries. As well as talking to the folks who work at the Chinese Hospital Pharmacy. Do not ask me to explain the reduction of psychological phenomena to physical states. Which google translate turns into 將心理現象減少為身體狀態。 I have no idea what that really means, although there are certain terms I do know: 心理 ('sam lei') is mental, in the mind. 現象 ('yin jeung') means appearance. 減少 ('haahm siu'): to lessen, reduce. 狀態 ('jong taai'): physical condition or mode. What the body (身體 'san tai') is doing there I do not understand.

At the pharmacy I didn't know what the Cantonese term for a medication refill was, so I talked around it; they knew.


In Cantonese, that sentence means "my hovercraft is full of eels" ('ngo ge hei jin suen mun saai sin'). For fans of Monty Python, that is the most important phrase in the world. All good conversations must include it.

"Min luft kussens far tsug es ful med ale!"

If I ever go to Guangzhou, I'll optimistically chatter about hovercrafts (氣墊船 'hei jin suen'; "air cushion boats") and the yellow eel (鱔 'sin') which is good for eating, stirfried, with black beans and garlic, or peppers, and hope that if I have to convey that my Amlodipine Besylate, Losartan, or Metoprolol, are running out, the pharmacy will know what the heck I'm talking about.
While discussing fish recipes.

黄鳝 ('wong sin'; monopterus albus): The Asian swamp eel, rice paddy eel, or white ricefield eel. Delicious, but very slimy.

Also nice braised with eggplant.
Or with noodles.

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