Alec: What’s that Hokkien way of describing a business tycoon again? Tau huey? Tau kwa?

Me: Um, I think you mean “towkay”. The other things you’re mentioning are forms of beancurd.

Alec: Ah.

Me: Also, you should be aware that for some reason, if this big boss person is female, they might be called a “towkay neo”. But the term I hear used more these days is “ladyboss”.

Alec: That’s actually quite refined for a Singlish term.

Me: True. If it were left to someone like me I’d probably have come up with “cheebye-E-O”.

Alec: ……

Somehow my attempts to teach Alec Singlish always end up in the same place. I don’t think I’m a very good teacher.

Date Night

We had a date night. It involved Burger King and Bruno, and so gave rise to numerous jibes from me that we suck at date night. On the way home, we had this conversation:

Alec: I love Hungry Ghosts month. Yesterday when I was walking home with our ta pau [1. Takeaway], the guys at the bike shop were setting up their little altar outside. It had a bike wheel as its centrepiece. The boss was very strict with his employees, very particular about how he wanted the altar set up.

Me: Well of course he was! If the ghosts think you don’t give a fuck then they’ll get fucking pissed off lah!

Alec: Dear, I think maybe the Taoists would have a more sophisticated way of explaining thi…

Me: No lah! I bet if you could just understand what the boss was telling his employees in Hokkien…

Alec: He’d be saying “This altar looks like you pulled it out of your wife’s cunt”?

Me: Your mother’s smelly cunt. [2. Explained in full Hokkien glory here.]

Alec: Oh yah, sorry.


Alec: Okay, you’re right. We really suck at date night.

Pardon His Fiddlesticks

Alec spends a lot more time with my mum than I do these days, since he’s often over at my house during the day to use my laptop for his job-searching. They have lunch, trade recipes, go shopping for stuff for his flat, and recently fell asleep together on the couch (DIFFERENT COUCHES OBVIOUSLY, LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR) while watching the Pope’s funeral.

While spending all this time with my mum, Alec naturally tries to moderate the ways in which he expresses himself. Although it would theoretically be possible to explain to my family that in Ireland, an outburst of “FECK!” is actually quite acceptable even in polite company, and really isn’t just a weird Irish way of saying “FUCK!”, after asking Alec to move continents for me I feel somewhat hard-pressed to demand that he also lecture my parents on Irish vernacular swearing.

But after so much restraint, I guess sometimes it’s hard for him to snap back into normal mode even when it’s just him and me. After lunch at his flat on Sunday, he went into the kitchen to pour us the coffee he’d made, only to realize he’d forgotten to plug the coffee-maker in when he switched it on – and yelled “FIDDLESTICKS!”

The rest of the afternoon was difficult for us, as he spent most of it rocking and mewling in a corner.


I thought Tamade was a one-off occurrence of a Japanese restaurant here with a name which is a swear word in another language (Mandarin), but today my family had dinner at Nabeya.¹ It appeared that I was either the only one who knew which swear word it sounded like, or the only one puerile enough to be secretly amused by it.

Sample conversation in the run-up to dinner, and I am so not kidding:
My mum: So, where are we going for dinner?
My sister: Nabeya.
My mum: Nabeya?! No, I don’t feel like it. Let’s go somewhere else.
My sister: But I only feel like Nabeya.
Me: Yah, mum, why not? Nothing wrong with Nabeya what.
My mum: Okay, fine then. Nabeya.

¹ Tips as to meaning can be found here and here.

Cross-Cultural Potty-Mouthing 101

In conversation the other day, Alec described how one of his colleagues’ favourite jokes was to gradually wind him up by piling on more and more stressful tasks and demands until he’d finally lose it and let fly with a flurry of curses. For some strange visceral reason (given that his Irish accent is mostly so Anglicized that I can actually understand most of what he says these days), this swearing would occur in his broadest Irish brogue.

A phrase that featured often in these outbursts is one I wasn’t previously familiar with, but must now share with everyone. “I will a’me bollocks!” is apparently short for “I will, in my bollocks!” which is apparently short for “No, I won’t do this thing you are asking me to do!”

Such elegance and charm, these Irish colloquialisms. I think Alec will pick up Singlish/Hokkien more easily than I first expected.

(While searching the Talking Cock dictionary for the above definitions, I came across this glorious expression which I must confess to having never heard before. Am I just hanging out with the wrong people?)

Kanina Moment

I got called a cunt yesterday.

I was walking home with Gwen from our customary Wednesday night post-IP-law girlie dinner (which Alec calls the Short People’s Club for some offensive reason of his own). A big black man waiting at a bus stop turned as we passed and said, quietly but distinctly, “Cunts.”

I was obviously not going to make an issue of it, since I wouldn’t have stood a chance in a brawl even if I scratched eyes and pulled hair (maybe if I kicked groin though), and we ignored him and kept walking. All the same, part of me desperately wanted to turn around and shriek “SI MI LAN CHEOW? KA NI NA BU CHAO CHEE BAI!” but that would have been descending to his level. Or perhaps considerably lower. Hokkien is the best cussing language ever.

Sex And Lucia

Sex And Lucia involved more fucking with my mind than with Lucia, which is saying a lot considering the amount of action she gets in the film. Given that films at the Bloomsbury Theatre only cost £2.50, I can certainly say I got a lot of bang for my buck.

But let me not be overly narrow in describing the artistic vision of this movie. It is definitely about more than Lucia fucking Lorenzo, Lorenzo fucking Lucia, Carlos fucking Elena occasionally, Carlos’s enormous penis, Antonio fucking Belen’s mum the porn star, Belen fucking herself with her mum’s dildo while watching her mum’s porn films…

There really is more to it than that, it’s just that after today’s mind-numbing hours of IT copyright law and comparative discrimination law, lecturer voices straining over deadened air in lethargic lecture theatres, page after page of paragraph after paragraph of refined civilised Times New Roman espousing refined civilised legal principles in the refined civilised library, I really just want to write FUCKING.