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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Terms of Endearment

There's this guy, a neighbour whom we often bump into in the elevator. I shall call him Mr E (E= short for Elevator). Mr E is not much older than us. One day Mr MG told me "I'm not sure what to call him. "Brother" or "Uncle". Mr E is obviously older than us, so "brother" seems disrespectful. On the other hand "uncle" sounds sooooo old because he doesn't look much older than us. We haven't resolved this dilemma, so its just "Hi, how'r you doing?" each time we bump into Mr E for the time being.

We Malaysians have a funny way of addressing people. Almost everyone is a "boss", "taukeh" (can be in Malay or Hokkien), "see tou"& "loh sai" (in Cantonese) or "see tau poh (for the feminine gender)". (All terms of address have the same meaning ie. boss). We call the condo guards, the mamak stall operator, the newspaper vendor and anyone else in some position of authority or ownership or anyone whom we don't know how to address "boss".

Similarly, we are called "taukeh", "see tou" etc by the condo guards, the mamak stall operator, the newspaper vendor, the hawker stall operator etc. Strange. I could be buying "Chap Fun" (Mixed Rice) and the conversation could go something like this. "See tou poh siong sek mee yeh." (Boss lady what would you like to have?) After picking the dishes I might say "See tou poh, kai soh" (Boss lady, how much?) to the lady seller. Or it could go something like this "Boss, roti kosong dua" (Boss, two plain roti canai, please) says Mr MG to the mamak stall operator who would reply "Ok boss" (Yes boss). Very strange indeed.

I was just thinking about how I am no longer a "leng lui" (pretty girl), a term usually used to address a SYT (sweet young thing) when I saw Mdmafia's very funny musings about this. I was "leng lui" for a very long time. I don't mind being called "leng lui" accept by the illegal VCD peddlars. Somehow it sounds more like a leer or tease when it comes from the mouth of someone with coloured hair, cigaratte dangling from lips, hipster jeans etc and it scared the shit out of me as a young girl but no longer. Its afterall much younger sounding and flattering than "auntie" or "see tou poh".

I still remember the first time I was called "auntie". It was at the butcher at the wet market. I had quite a nasty shock then as at the time I was still not yet horizontally challenged and wasn't even dressed in auntie garb. But the chap was just a teenager helping out his mum or so I consoled myself. (probably he was older but I'd like to think that he was a teenager lah for obvious reasons as the younger he was, the "older" I would appear to him so he'd have more reason to call me "auntie". Its just like our current dilemma with Mr E.

I'm used to the term "auntie" now. Why, someone even called me "auntie blogger" on his sidebar. Hahaha. Anyway if anyone could tell me how to address Mr E, I would be grateful.


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