I used to think I knew English before living in Asia with Brits, Kiwis, Aussies, Canadians, and Germans that speak better English than I. My first clue that I only spoke American was in London while trying to get a computer on the phone to accept my credit card. Ms. Voice-Activated asks, “Please state your card number.” I do so over and over, but she/it cannot understand my pronunciation of the number 3.
‘“Three! Thry? Throy? Tarie! Thahry! Throw-oy! 2 plus1! 7 minus 4! We Three Kings, goddamn it! Is there an American computer in the office?” Thirty-three strikes and you’re out. I gave up.
Another American and I were evaluating a British teacher-trainee learning to teach English to a Thai class. She asks the students, “What’s the silent letter in the word work?”
We Yankees look at each other, simultaneously thinking: There are no silent letters in “work.”
In English, it seems, there is—the “r.” She removes the “r” from the whiteboard and instructs the students how to say “wok” which they all have at home in their kitchens. She also says “Herb,” pronouncing the h, which was my uncle’s name, not a spicy plant, with a silent h.
She failed American. I failed English.
Spellings are not the same. “The two-metre neighbour with the cosy flat fantasised about a jewellery licence, flavourful haggis and coloured cheques whilst snogging his missis.”
Try that through an American spell-checker. Meanings aren’t the same, especially around cars. The “boot” is the trunk, the “bonnet” is the hood and “petrol” is certainly not gas, which my “mates” who are not forgiving friends, have reminded me six million times.
“You’ve got gas? Was it the spicy curry? Fancy some bicarbonate or a cork?”
When I began to write a weekly column for Chiangmai Mail, an English-language newspaper run locally by two Germans, edited by an Australian, and read by the international community, it got very confusing. My British dictionaries and spell-checkers don’t always agree, since there are 500 dialects per square-whatever-they-use-over-there. Instead of miles, it’s kilometers in Thailand, which is spelled kilometres. The temperature is Celsius, not Fahrenheit, unless it’s 40.
“We’d love to have you in our country. Here’s the door in and the door out.” Unofficially, it’s now the Land of Smiles and warm ones greet me wherever I go. So besides the smiling faces, the spicy food, the cool seas, the hot weather, the soaring mountains, the sweet valleys, the loud parties, the silent temples, the real freedom, and the pace of life in Thailand, I love to ride through it all on a motorcycle.
There is a wealth of classic roads less traveled, though you never know what will or won’t be around the corner.
Scott was born in Fargo, North Dakota, but he takes pills for it.
Life in the Laugh Lane at www.lifeinthelaughlane.com, web www.kingcobrapress.com and Amazon.com
Photo 1: A very, very, very steep hill near Pai. The bikers are dead now.
Photo 2: Your brakes and wheels may survive the first hill, but not the next.
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com