Kiss Me Sir, Part II

A few months back I wrote about how English gets corrupted into interesting new forms —  The Asian Wall Street Journal into Asia Watching Journal, Asia Movie General or Asian World Strip Journal , ‘ excuse me sir’ into  “Kiss Me Sir”, “A Skirmisher”, “Ex Skirmisher” and “Kill Me Sir”.

I’ve noticed there’s another tendency, towards abbreviation, that in itself creates interesting possibilities for misunderstanding. In mile-a-minute Hong Kong, every syllable squeezed out is a syllable saved, so it’s not surprising it’s most common here: The guy who comes around the rooms checking mini-bar supplies, for example, doesn’t bother saying ‘housekeeping’ but ‘erskine’ which baffled me at first, given I went to school with a guy sporting that name. ‘Good morning’ becomes ‘gummmer’, so next time a guy knocks on your hotel door saying “Gummer Erskine”, you needn’t hide under the bed. It’s just the mini-bar he’s after.

In my local 7–11 the very nice ladies behind the counter charmingly ask me every time I buy water from them, “Waba?” which I only realised this morning is, of course, short for “Want a bag?”

Kiss Me Sir, Can I Take Your Order?

As I heard the name of my publication, The Asian Wall Street Journal, being mangled once again over an indifferent phone line by secretaries who could not, or chose not to, make out my English accent — variations today included Asia Watching Journal, Asia Movie General or my current favourite, Asian World Strip Journal – I was given to reminiscing about my early days in Thailand, when I took to noting down the different interpretations one might make of the polite ‘Excuse me, Sir’ oft uttered by waiters and other members of the tourist industry.

The only ones I can recall are as follows (they need to be spoken aloud, fast and in an Isaan accent if you’re up to it): the somewhat informal “Kiss Me Sir”, the relatively obscure “A Skirmisher” (and its more precise cousin “Ex Skirmisher”) and the thoroughly abject “Kill Me Sir”. There were others, including the one I suspect many of them really intended but which is too vulgar for family blogging (but involves replacing the word ‘kiss’ or ‘kill’ with something more feisty involving a household tool that is not a bolt). Any others very welcome.