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The Preferred Nomenclature

June 22, 2013 Comments off

As an Australian, I’m accustomed to being quizzed on some of the bizarre slang and abbreviations that pepper the Aussie version of English. I’ve heard stories of new arrivals to Australia being utterly confounded by our verbal manglings. Fair enough, too.

“Johnno’s on compo, his car’s out of rego, so I’ll pick him up for Davo’s barbie on Sat’di arvo.”

(John is on worker’s compensation, his vehicle registration has expired, so I’ll pick him up for Dave’s barbecue on Saturday afternoon.)

The most bizarre example I can think of in Australian slang is “Arie”. It sounds similar to RE, which is an abbreviation used mostly in Brisbane for the Royal Exchange Hotel. I’ve heard Sydney folk talking about having a few beers at the Arie, but I couldn’t think of any Royal Exchange Hotels in Sydney. After a while, I figured out that they were referring to RSL, or Returned & Services League, a club first formed in 1916 for military personnel who’d returned from war, which now has branches scattered throughout Australia.

Upon realising this, my first thought was, “You’re abbreviating an acronym! You lazy bastards!” I once heard someone referring to the “Granny Arie” instead of the Granville RSL, and I thought he was taking the piss.

The one that amuses and mystifies me more than most, however, is the abbreviation or malicious mangling with intent of foreign place names. I’m not talking about the Anglofication of city names like Mumbai or Beijing, but the somewhat childish diminutives extracted from the various place names.

I’ve heard ‘Honkers’ used as a substitute for Hong Kong many times over the years, but it wasn’t until I spent most of 2010 in Southeast Asia that I started hearing odd terms for cities in the region. Like ‘Bangers’ for Bangkok[1], or ‘the Penh’ for Phnom Penh.

(The latter convention seems to apply when referring to Cambodia; I’ve never heard anyone say they were in ‘Cambers’, it’s usually ‘the Bodia’ or, more often, ‘the Bodge’.)

While living in Cambodia in 2010, I overheard one English guy planning a December trip to Thailand, telling a friend that he would be “in Changers by Crimbo”. I eventually had this translated to mean that he’d be in Chiang Mai by Christmas.

I know I shouldn’t throw stones, given my country’s predilection for silly and often redundant abbreviation. At the time, I wrote to a friend about this, saying, “By that measure, I grew up in Griffers before moving to Sydders. I’m in Phnommers right now & might head to Reapers next week.”

When I visited San Francisco last April, I was told that the locals dislike hearing the city referred to as ‘Frisco’, and that saying ‘San Fran’ may get you lynched.

I’ve been bugged by this habit of shortening for some time, but then found examples of it in a book first published in 1977. When I read the below extract in Dispatches by Michael Herr last night, I laughed out loud.

When I got back to Vietnam in early July, [Tim Page] and I spent ten days in Delta with the Special Forces, and then went to Danang to meet [Sean] Flynn. (Page called Danang ‘Dangers’, with a hard g. In a war where people quite seriously referred to Hong Kong as ‘Hongers’ and spoke of running over to Pnompers to interview Sukie, a British correspondent named Don Wise made up a Vietnam itinerary: Canters, Saigers, Nharters, Quinners, Pleikers, Quangers, Dangers, and Hyoo-beside-the-sea.)

Seems it’s a much less recent phenomenon than I’d thought.

So if you’re heading to the Bodge, I can recommend Phnommers, Siemmers, Batters, Kampers and Sinners[2], but Anlers and Pailers might not suit everyone.

———-
[1] Admittedly, Bangkok isn’t the proper name for the city either. Unless speaking with foreigners, Thai people call it Krung Thep, which is a shortened form of Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which is in turn a shortened form of the official ceremonial name for the city, that being Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. So abbreviating this one is fair enough.

[2] ‘Sinners’ being the Wise-ified version of Sihanoukville which, given the town’s reputation, is quite apt.

Home again?

January 9, 2005 Leave a comment

Here I am, safe & sound and significantly less hung over than when last we met…

Getting on the Thai Air flight from Siagon was a little strange. I was greeted by the flight attendant with “Sawadee ka” and felt instantly comfortable. I could’ve only felt in more familiar surroundings if I’d stepped onto a Qantas plane and met with a “G’day”.

Landing in Bangkok 65 minutes later was also a very cool feeling. It really did feel as familiar as landing in Mascot.

Getting through to the outside world, however, was a total balls-up on my past. Knowing you could get a visa on arrival, I then proceeded to follow the completely wrong process and delayed my exit from the airport by an hour. Grr… I then got a taxi but failed to factor in the Friday arvo traffic. Another hour to the guesthosue Jen was staying in.

Seeing the tuk-tuks, Golden Mount, Democracy Momument, Grand Palace, and yes even Khao San Road filled me even more with a sense of coming home rather than landing in a foreign country. And while there’s a lot more traffic than in Vietnam, it’s also a lot quieter. No vigorous tootling of any kind. :)

FINALLY met up with Jen, we talked, we laughed, we ate some great food, we spoke vaguely about our next move to Cambodia, and we slept soundly. It was the first bit of quiet I’d had in 18 days. Magical.

This evening after dinner we found a department store and bought a kettle so we can enjoy the Vietnamese coffee I bought in Hué. Then bought a few more things from a nearby supermarket. The whole time it kept hitting me that this felt truly like where I lived. It was weird, but very cool.

[yawn!] I suspect I’m still somewhat knackered from my Vietnam adventure. :) So I’ll head off and wish you all a good night.

Foolish behaviour in Saigon

January 6, 2005 Leave a comment

Well, to be honest, this sort of foolishness would have taken place wherever there’s a gathering of Aussies and sufficient alcohol. And some classic OZ music.

Last night I chanced upon a bar called the Blue Gecko, which I heard was rather a cool place. Staffed by some very cute Veitnamese girls and patronised by a bunch of Westerners. I walked in, ordered a beer and noticed a green & gold autographed cricket shirt on the wall. Then I spotted a VB coaster, a few Ettamogah Pub cartoons on the walls.

Bloody hell, I thought, and I asked the girl behind the bar, “Is this an Australian pub?”

“Yes,” she said. “Where you from?”

“Sydney,” I replied, and laughed at the fact that of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, I had to walk into this one.

Struck up a conversation with some blokes from Melbourne who are now living here. The place was breifly invaded by a group of teenagers from the Gold Coast. I played, and had my arse kicked in, a few games of pool. Drank. Listened to some Cold Chisel, Hunters & Collectors, Crowded House (Ok, they’re Kiwi but we claimed them anyhow).

The Aussies on this spam list would probably be familiar with a song that came out about 20 years ago by a band called Redgum. The song is called I Was Only 19 (A Walk In The Light Green). It’s about a kid who gets shipped to Vietnam during the war and sees one of his mates get killed, and how he’s struggling with life back in the world. It’s a powerful song, and I’ve not heard it in a long long time. Being half-smashed in a bar in Saigon and hearing this was for me quite a moving experience.

Then they played Khe Sanh, and all felt right in the world. :) They also played Holy Grail, The Boys Light Up, Reckless… it felt really good to have that kind of familiarity for a while.

I drank a lot with 2 Vietnamese guys who now live in the US. Turns out that one of them is a sales rep for Tiger beer, hence we had quite a few freebies. :) At least I can justify my feeling like utter shite that way. I only spend about 125,000 dong all night, quite cheap really.

I somehow safely navigated the streets for 3 kilometers back to my guesthouse. I can barely remember getting there, I must’ve woke the owners to get in. I do remember apologising many times to them.

I was actually prepared to not like Saigon, given how noisy and intense I found most of the rest of the country. But I have to admit that I really like this town! Kind of reminds me of Sydney, strangely enough.

I’m flying back to Bangkok tomorrow to reunite with Jen, and today I’m too hung over (and it’s now too late in the day) for me to do a few things I wanted to. But I’ll be back at some point. :) It’s just up the road from home, innit?

Not a lot of spirituality in Saigon from me, I’ll admit. But I’m starting to learn now that once you’re on the Path you never really leave it. You might stop and rest for a while, but it’s still the Path.

So… having a blast, love you all, take care, all that bollocks. :)

Cheers,
Karsoe/Paul C.

“Tootle Him With Vigor” – Near-death experiences on the Roads in Vietnam

January 6, 2005 Leave a comment

“I know you won’t break the rules; there aren’t any.”
– Dr. Dealgood, ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome’

If you ever need a sharp reminder of your own mortality, take a quick jaunt on Vietnam’s roads. And if you don’t invoke the name of a deity at least once, I’d be very surprised.

There are 3 factors involved in driving in Vietnam:

1. Maximum speed.
2. Use as much of the road as is deemed necessary.
3. Sound the horn at every available opportunity.

The third one, for me, was one reason for me thinking that this is the noisiest and most intense country anywhere.

A very good piece of advice (and also among my favourite examples of mangled English) comes from a dodgily translated brochure for a car rental company in Japan.

“When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”

This is something the Vietnamese drivers have taken to heart. It’s considered very courteous driving practice to indicate your presence to all & sundry (I doubt this includes neighbouring countries, despite common opinion). This is done by “tootling with vigor” as you approach someone. Hence, even the smallest of towns can end up sounding like downtown Manhattan. The ubiquitous Honda Dream motor scooters aren’t too bad, but with a thousand of them it can be a bit daunting. They, at least, have a relatively subtle “beep beep” horn. Some of the larger trucks & buses sound as if they have the entire brass & woodwind section of the London Philharmonic Orchestra installed behind the grille.

My first night in Vietnam was spent sleeplessly in the town of Dong Ha, where the north-south running National Highway One intersects with Route 9 to the Laos border. Dong Ha seems to be the major venue for World Championship Vigorous Tootling contests, which start at about 5am and seem to abate at roughly 10:30pm. And it’s the same *everywhere* in Vietnam.

The tootling can get very vigorous indeed when overtaking occurs. Watching vehicles overtake in Vietnam is a very fun & exciting spectator sport, provided that you are at a respectable & safe distance. For this purpose, I recommend Mars.

If you’re unfortunate enough to actually be in one of the vehicles involved in such lunacy, this is when things start to get rather religious. especially if the overtaking is being done on a blind curve going up a steep mountain road while it’s raining. And it will be. Has been, even. The overtaking vehicle sounds it’s horn *constantly* while passing, and any oncoming traffic in the other lane will pull off the road as far as possible without any actual reduction in speed. Unless the oncoming vehicle is bigger than you, in which case your driver will jump on the brakes and duck back behind the vehicle he’s trying to overtake. This will be done at the last possible nanosecond, giving you ample time to count the number of bugs on the windshield of the truck you nearly had a head-on with.

And the truly frightening thing? They say it’s safer than flying…

Surf report – Miu Ne, Vietnam

January 4, 2005 Leave a comment

“Going off bigtime” is not an appropriate description. 5 inch swell, 4 second sets. The water, however, is delightfully warm and refreshing.

I landed here at just after lunchtime New Year’s Day, saw the beach lined with palm trees and the quite cheap resorts and thought, “Oh yes indeed.”

I’m off to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in about 5 hours. That city, I’m told, makes the rest of Vietnam seem like a sleepy town. So I’m trying to prepare myself, given that I’ve found just about everywhere else to be very full-on.

I’m continuing to have a good time & meet some cool people, and drink some truly awful alcohol. This will require some elaboration when I have cheaper Internet access.

Vietnam is quite intense and I’ve felt less than good a few times. But it’s all about change, that’s why I’m here, and it’s happening.

So… I’ll head off then. :) Hope everyone is doing well/

Take care.

Peace,
Karsoe/Paul C

Categories: Travel Tags: , , , ,

Unexpected Epiphany

December 29, 2004 Leave a comment

HOI AN, VIETNAM – A delicious breakfast at Thu’s, some grafitti (I wrote “Love me Thu times baby! – Karsoe, Sydney Australia 28-12-04”) and I then hopped on a bus for the trip to the seaside town of Hoi An.

This town is renowned for it’s tailors, and there are a lot of them, all willing to run up a suit for not a great deal of money. I’d like to grab one, except I’ve still got a while to go on my trip.

I tried to have some peaceful beach time today. The weather was not amazing, it rained quite a bit last night. I figured that the tourists would stay away from the beach, and that it would give me a good chance to get down there and have some time on my own.

I was right, there were very few tourists. There were, however, many many people selling handcrafts, drinks, snacks, cigarettes, massages. And they were very insistent, as they have been everywhere here. I bought a few things but felt pissed off. What the hell do I have to do to get some quiet time on my own in this country?

I walked back without having said much to the ocean. I felt a bit of animosity towards the people, the mentality, just the whole thing was making me angry. All I wanted to do was go to Da Nang and hop on the next plane to Bangkok where the tuk-tuk drivers know what ‘no thank you’ actually means.

But as I walked back from the beach I started figuring things. I was staring down at my feet as I walked. My world was small. I could be walking past a magnificent temple, a beautiful river, a lovely woman, and I’d never have known. I didn’t care then, I wanted my world to be small because I felt angry that the Universe had conspired to deny me some quiet time.

The people who “hassle” you to buy, invite you into their shop, they’re not shop assist ante. Nor do they employ any. They aren’t wage earners. They don’t earn if they don’t sell, and they don’t eat if they don’t earn. And while this revelation didn’t inspire me to spend more, it did at least give me some perspective as to why they’re so insistent.

At that moment I heard a “Hello!” as my side. Another child, a little girl, a toddler really, who could already call out in English to a huge Western stranger without fear. She teetered towards me, smiling, waving, her slightly older brother stood nearer their house, also smiling but watching carefully. The girl shook my hand firmly, Westerner-style. Her mum watched from the house, happy to see her kids exploring their world.

As I continued back to town I began to wonder how I lost that sense of adventure, the desire to explore. How did I? Why did I? Why do we? Why is it that when our bodies get bigger, our minds get smaller?

I remember family picnics in Binya Hills near Griffith, me and the other kids would always go off ‘exploring’. That’s what we called it. We’d climb rocks, jump crevices, wade through creeks and climb trees, totally convinced that we were the first to do so since creation. We “claimed” everything we saw as ours but never too anything with us. And we shared it all. There was no ‘mine’ because it was all to big for one.

Early bus to Nha Trang tomorrow, I should be getting some sleep.

Categories: Travel Tags: , ,

Seeing the sights in Hué

December 25, 2004 Leave a comment

Righto… if you ever find yourself in Vietnam, specifically the city of Hué, look up Café On Thu Wheels (10/2 Nguyen Tri Phuong, Hué). It’s run my a brilliant lady named Thu (pronounced like To). Amazing food, great tunes, cold beer, hot coffee. The walls are covered with scrawlings from travellers indulging in written smartarsery based on the owner’s name, which she herself started with the name of the café. Thu be or not Thu be. That sort of thing.

The name also derives from the fact that she organises motor scooter excursions of this lovely city, and her brothers take you around for about 4 hours and take you to a number of very interesting cultural & historical sites, complete with in-depth commentary. One of the cool things I did was ring a 2-ton bell at a temple, the bell was cast in 1601.

And let me tall you, busy city traffic will never appear the same once you’ve driven through late afternoon pandemonium in Vietnam on the back of a Honda Dream being piloted by a Vietnamese geezer half your size. Well, half my size anyhow. Davo, you might be happy to know that I’m now pretty much cured of my phobia over motorised 2-wheeled transport.

This is *the* best tour in town. Cheap (US$7), and the brothers know their stuff. Very informative, and if you survive you can confitendly say that you’ve cheated death a few times. :)

So yeah, if you end up here, resist the 10 trillion cyclo offers for every step you take on the street & hasten to Café On Thu Wheels. What have you got Thu lose? :) (Sorry, been hanging out there too much)

Cheers,
Karsoe/Paul C.