Thursday, February 20, 2020


There's a girl at one of the local Walgreens who once said to me that it almost sounded like I was speaking Chinese. But clearly she couldn't understand what I was saying, so I guess I must not have been. This is not at all unusual, and she probably thinks that a lot about many other customers. Her version of Chinese quite likely is deep Toishan. My apartment mate's parent's language was Toishanese, and she often asks me what something means, to which my response is to look quizzical, because it's kind of like listening to a Monty Python peasant from deepest Devonshire, Gumby, going "ooh argh" .....
Her reaction to me speaking Cantonese is exactly the same.
The number of times something like that happens with American born people is not inconsiderable, and I suspect that the Walgreen's person is like that.
We always speak English now with every transaction.
To her, I'm a likable though eccentric Eury.
I probably talk funny.

She's very cute, though she has frightening eyebrows.
Thick, furry, and statesman-like.
Chou Enlai-esque.

Ooh argh!

Sorry, I can't understand what you are saying. Speak English!

The chap at the place where I had my second cup of milk tea yesterday was considerably more so. He must keep track of all the businesses in Chinatown where the owners speak or understand Toishanese, because with that thick countryside speech, no native Samyap speaker will have even the foggiest clue what the heck he's saying. I listened with fascination as he had a long conversation in his home town dialect on his cell-phone, and could maybe make out one word in twenty.

Thanks to cell phones you need never be more than a ring tone away from someone else who speaks ooh arg.

I deeply apologize to all speakers of Seiyap, it really does sound like you lot are gumbies from Monty Python going "ooh argh" all the time. Some of you are worse than others.

Devonshire, Cornwall, Yorkshire, what ever.

Ooh argh.

Ooh argh.

At the place where I had lunch and my first cup of tea, one waitress warmly recommended a type of woolen glove from the mainland when I mentioned that my fingers turn blue in cold weather, and both waitresses working there yesterday speak my version of Canto. All of the shopkeepers I dealt with yesterday also understood me, as well as the proprietor of the second milk tea place. But I've heard him speaking ooh argh, just like the counter ladies at one of the bakeries I patronize, and several of the customers there with whom I've had conversations. One of whom I can barely understand, except when he's punctuating his discourse with curse words talking with old friends.

Linguistic opacity occurs most frequently with the American born, who might simply say that they don't speak Mandarin (hey, neither do I), assuming that a kwailo eructating something tonal must be trying, desperately, to say something phrasebooky or elemental in that language, because it sure as heck ain't the Chinese they know.

It's almost like ooh argh.

One of my coworkers for many years was like that. I never spoke Chinese with him at all, as he'd always made me feel stupid and unsure of my pronunciation whenever I did, and it was just too much trouble.

I've had several enjoyable and informative conversations with one of his bloodkin who runs a shop in Chinatown and doesn't speak English.
He's fluent in Cantonese, ooh arg, and Mandarin.

You know, I could attempt Hokkien, and then I'd be truly impenetrable.
Everyone would probably say that it almost sounds like Chinese.
Or that they have a distant auntie who talks like that.

Ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh.
Ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh.
Ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh, ooh argh.

Upon reflection, the chap at the second tea place can't be "Thleeyup"; there were no thleeps, thlims, ips, or ongs in his speech. So if it was "Ong waa", it was from somewhere deep in the mountains of Tennessee.
His life must be truly interesting.

To the cute girl at Walgreens, it would probably also sound almost like he spoke Chinese.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

No comments:

Search This Blog


There were four tables with only Chinese diners. One table with only white diners (well, one diner; me). And one table with a Chinese woman ...