“Something similar happened when I went back to Singapore and tried to ask for “more chilli” in Chinese [after not speaking any in 2 years]. The mandrin is “lah jiao”, but I came up with “lan jiao”, Hokkien for dick, thereby begging the nice hawker stall lady for more dick. Nice.”
Bursting out in laughter in a quiet law library is rather embarrassing, as is walking down the hill to the bus stop later unable to keep one side of your mouth or the other from quirking upwards as you try to keep the broad grin off your face. In the first situation you either appear inconsiderate and attention-seeking, or just the weird person with no inner monologue who everyone else avoids unless they are unfortunately assigned to the same project group. In the second situation you either look lecherous, tic-laden or capable of inspiring New Paper (a Singapore tabloid) articles on Elvis living in Kent Ridge.
Note to self: remind Alec when he comes to Singapore that if he ever wants to order steamed chicken rice rather than roast, the correct term is “bai ji” (white chicken). Getting the words mixed up and asking for “ji bai” with an ang mor accent has great potential for disaster.
So anyway, thanks for that, Tamara. I’ll think of you the next time I feel tempted to appear like a total nutcase to the public at large.