Monday, April 2, 2007

To-may-to, To-mah-to...

I come from an Asian community where “he” and “she” were used interchangeably. I grew up in Texas where a “payette” is a nice, domesticated furry animal. I went to college where “wicked weeid” refers to something strange. I lived in a place in New Jersey where “Nwok” was one of the closest airports.

All this leaves me somehow with a rather flat accent, but some ability in deciphering different pronunciations of words and unusual turns of phrase. At times I even successfully understand Singlish accents and grammar: I make a rough guess of what the American English word might be, and then back-translatie it through my feeble command of Chinese to confirm. But it’s not just the pronunciation; it’s the actual vocabulary that confounds me at times:

Self service - please don’t help yourself like you might when adding gas (petrol) to your car in the US (except in that state where one goes “down the shore”). Self service means they’ll get the grub and hand it to you, but you have to bring it back to your own seat - as opposed to actual service from waiters.

Top up - essentially the same meaning as top off (as in a drink), but used primarily for cards (cash cards, phone cards, transit cards).

Free flow - free refills, which are a rarity, as most drinks aren't topped up for free. Used for almost any food type item: bread, rice, sodas, and most commonly for alcohol (in which case it will add at least S$100 to your bill).

Carrot cake - yeah, I thought this might be sweet, too. Actually, carrot cake is a savory mixture of flour and daikon (“carrot” can also refer to daikon - white radish) fried with eggs and onions.

Steamboat - I thought these were only found cruising on the Mississippi. Here it’s basically a small huo guo, or a “hot pot” of boiling water or broth filled with fresh vegetables, meats, and tofu.

There are many others, I'm sure...but that’s for another post, another time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting. Compile all this into a book when you get home!