Terms Of Endearment

2 May 2014, TV = 755.1 hours

blushing Facebook emoticon, from http://fbemoticonscodes.blogspot.com/2013/02/blushing-emoticon-code-for-facebook-chat.html

Ummmmm…I said WHAT?!?

While writing up Tuesday’s post I reread Stan Carey’s piece on pseudotranslations. Some of the commenters recalled mispronouncing words in a way that had grossly altered the meaning of what they were trying to say, and in some cases the resulting language was sexual or even obscene.

I was reminded of the time in class at AUA when one of my Thai teachers, in discussing the serial killer from Silence of the Lambs, mispronounced Hannibal as “honey balls”.

I think I was the only native English speaker present, but at any rate if anyone else “got it” they were surely doing the same thing I was: concentrating on keeping a straight face, making sure not to fall out of the chair & start ROFLing….

In the interests of umm…full disclosure…I should note that I’ve made similar gaffes in Thai. I’ve already written about the time I thanked a friend of mine, a woman several years older than myself, for being such a great prostitute (I had meant to say tour guide); a more recent example involved another unintentional pun, in which I tried to repeat a phrase whose meaning was something like (temperature) hot enough to break/rupture the liver but accidentally substituted for liver a certain anatomical part specific to women – and again, as my luck would have it, my interlocutor was a woman several years older than myself.

I doubt that off-color mistakes are more common than any other type of misspeaking – but they probably tend to be a lot more memorable!

 * * *

Note: My Thai teacher altered the pronunciation of Hannibal in several ways, but I’m struck by her having added an S to the end. From what I’ve observed Thai syllables don’t end in S – I think it’s an “impossible” sound, in the same way that in English it’s not possible to have PT at the beginning of a syllable (which presumably accounts for our peculiarly P-less pronunciation of pterodactyl). Anyway, I think “balls” would be a difficult word for most Thais to pronounce correctly – unless they’d practiced or had experience with a language that, like English, can end syllables in S.

This might be a case of hypercorrection, as might be another teacher’s tendency to pronounce the Thai cell phone service provider DTAC (usually pronounced “dee tack”) as DTACS (“dee tax”).

(Blushing smiley image taken from facebook chat emoticons)

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One thought on “Terms Of Endearment

  1. Pingback: Stay Foreign Or Go Native? | learning thai without studying

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