Monday, September 14, 2009


I remember, as a kid, making fun or Chinese accents when watching a kung fu movie. It's also very funny to check out some of the English translations on public signage, adverts, and even subtitled movies or tv shows. As a foreigner in a place where they speak English with some common Asian pronunciation problems, I have to be careful not to criticize too much or laugh too much at some of the mistakes I see or hear...because my mistakes are usually ten times worse than theirs!

I was once ordering an omelet with ground pork and onions. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the word for “onions”, so I said the closest thing I could think of…or at least the word that I thought meant onions. “Onion” is “hom yai”…I dyslexically said “hua nom” which flows off of the foreigner's tongue and leaves the lips with relative ease. One problem; “Hua nom” does not mean onion!

I ended up ordering an “omelet with ground pork and nipples”. I crap you not…nothing like nipples and eggs in the morning! The cook, to my surprise, only lifted her eyebrows and tightened her lips at my order...thought for a few awkward moments and suggested that rather than nipples, I try the more conventional omelet with onions! Right...that sounds much better anyway!

This has become a running joke, but I’ll sometimes forget that it’s a joke and absent mindedly order a dish “without nipples” or ask a server if there are “tempura nipples” on the menu. Pae probably thinks I do this on purpose, but I assure you that is not the case, especially when 90% of the cooks here are women. There have been many who have laughed in my face, only to be scolded by their coworkers. But I totally understand, I've been laughing at people's language mistakes for years...I guess it's my turn to be the butt of others' jokes!

If you ever come to visit, it’s probably in your best interest not to ask me to be your translator, lest ye be a nipple connoisseur!


Beccarigg said...

I love language mess ups like that! I'll never forget our first week in Mexico when a girl in our group asked the waiter if she could urinate. She meant to say order, but got mixed up. They tried not to laugh at her but sometimes that stuff is just too funny!

Naomi Hanks said...

Oh man! That made me laugh so hard! I never have problems like that because I'm not smart enough to learn another language! But that's ok, I'm sure I've been the butt of many jokes anyway.

Titan and I said...

A nipple with my coffee maybe, but an omelet?

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