Wednesday, October 22, 2003

 
Voices Carry
Except for consultations about word choices and curious American customs like the MLB playoffs or private home ownership, I am frequently out of the conversational loop among my coworkers. They often debate English terms and words among themselves in Chinese, but only when they seem to reach an impasse do they think to ask the Long Nosed Human Dictionary sitting among them. Today, though, there was a furious exchange between three men and one woman that went: "Chinesechinesechinesebabblebabble 'making love' babblechinesebabble 'having sex' babblebabblechinese 'making love, having sex' babblechinesebabble,etc." repeatedly.
I couldn't resist.
"John," I shouted, interjecting myself rudely into their discussion. "Why are you talking about sex in the office. I thought only crude westerners did that!"
John Wu looked up startled and then laughed. I like him, partly because when he really works at it he can produce almost perfect English copy. And he's also a little older and more worldly than most of staff, and as a result somewhat cynical and occasionally almost burned out. He has also lived (for 3 years) in the States, in, of all places, Kissimmee, Fla. where he worked translating for a Chinese theme park.
And he writes under three bylines - including one of the best of all time: 'Flame Wu.'
"We are discussing the difference between 'making love' and 'having sex.' What, in your opinion is the difference?"
"Uh, emotion, feeling, I guess."
"Yes, one can have sex without making love."
"Yeah, I'd agree."
I decided to see how far I could push the English lesson.
"John, (lowering voice and motioning him to come closer). Do you want to know an American slang term for having sex with a friend with whom there is no romance?"
You could hear the proverbial pin drop around me. I could see the others pretending to studiously gaze at their keyboards while straining to hear me more clearly.
"Yes," said John.
"It's 'fuck buddy.' You know, 'buddy', right? And you know (more sotto voice) 'fuck', I am sure."
John smiled again and repeated it back to me slowly. "Fuck buddy. Yes. Thank you."
I went back to my work. Less than two minutes passed and the conversational flow resumed: ""Chinesechinesechinesebabblebabble 'fuck buddy' babblechinesebabble 'buddy, fuck buddy' babblebabblechinese..."
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