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?”