“马桶堵了” / "The Loo’s Gone Potty"

“马桶堵了”

我1974年来到香港,以意想不到的速度找到了工作,然后当务之急是要做一套西服,因为我的背包里没有这样的装备。新老板领我到他的裁缝那里,请求提供特急服务。于是这个任务轻松完成。

下一步,是要找一个比基督青年会(YMCA)更适合长久居住、更舒适的地方。恰巧有同事当时得知,一位英国女士正准备转租其位于港岛半山区公寓里的第三个卧室。

于是我搬了进去,但很快,我就感觉像是缺水的鱼一样浑身不自在。

女房东人很好,她的室友是一位英国小伙子,人也不错,但我们留在香港的理由却大相径庭。他们的朋友圈主要是外国人,没人会讲中文,而且对学习中文似乎也一点儿不感兴趣。我们之间的经济状况同样存在很大差距,我看得出来,当她打量我的背包时,明显是带着瞧不起的眼神。

这位女房东的名字叫维维安(Vivian),是某家跨国公司在香港的行政秘书,另一位合租人则在一家国际船运公司任职。他们都经常出入殖民时代的香港外籍人士社交圈,其收入足以维持这种生活方式。

在经济地位上,他们和我可谓是南辕北辙(我得被划到“白种穷鬼”那头,在当时的香港,这是一个很小的群体。),除此之外,我们还存在语言问题。

在来香港之前,我一直有一种错觉,以为美国佬和英国佬说的是同一种语言。上世纪70年代初,香港外籍人士中的大多数都来自不列颠群岛,而很多人的口音我很难听懂。

在搬进维维安公寓将近一个月后的某天早晨,我正在自己房间穿衣服准备去上班,她来敲我的门,说:“The loo’s gone potty.  ” (马桶堵了)

这话我一时没反应过来,于是隔着门请求她重复一遍。

结果我听到的还是那句:“The loo. The loo’s gone potty.”

对我来说,“loo”听着隐约像个中文词汇,根本不像英语单词。可维维安不会说中文,我也不知道“loo”是什么意思。

在美国英语里,“potty”是指“小尿盆”,只在与特别小的孩子说话时会用到。用在这里似乎也不合适。这真让人糊涂。

于是,我请求她再重复一遍。这中间房门依旧关着,仿佛象征着我俩之间失败的交流。

维维安一定对我这个愚笨的美国人失去了耐心,而我也因听不懂她这个显然很简单的句子而倍觉难堪。

就像人们有时对理解有困难的外国人说话时那样,维维安大大提高了嗓门儿,又重复了一遍:

“THE LOO. THE LOO. THE LOO IS BROKEN.”(马桶,马桶,马桶坏了!)

这下,我完全不知所措了,只能抓住那个关键词,问了最后一个问题:

“loo在哪里?”

接下来是一阵死寂,维维安一定在想,这个奇怪的美国背包客已经搬进来三个多星期了,怎么可能找不到“loo”?我当然找不到,因为直到那天早晨我才第一次知道“loo”在英国英语里的意思。

这次关于马桶的对话,是我们宾主关系的转折点。我开始寻找新住处,没过一个礼拜,就搬了出去。对殖民地外藉青年的社交圈,我无力涉足,也不感兴趣。

 

“The Loo’s Gone Potty”

My first priority after arriving in Hong Kong in 1974 and landing a job with unexpected speed was to get a suit made, since my backpack’s contents did not include such items. That was easily accomplished after my new boss took me to his tailor and asked them for extra fast service.

Next was to find a place to live with a bit more permanence and comfort than the YMCA. This happened after a colleague found a British lady looking to sub-let her third bedroom in a mid-levels apartment on Hong Kong Island.

I moved in, but soon felt like a fish out of water.

The landlady was nice, as was her roommate, a young British guy, but our reasons for being in Hong Kong were very different. Their circle of friends were mainly other foreigners, none of whom spoke Chinese or seemed the least bit interested in learning. Our economic stations in life were also very different, as I could see when she eyed my backpack with an obvious degree of disdain.

Her name was Vivian. She was an executive secretary with a multinational company in Hong Kong. Her other sub-tenant worked for an international shipping company. Both were quite caught up in the expatriate social swirl of Hong Kong in the colonial era, and had incomes to support such a lifestyle.

Apart from being at different ends of the economic spectrum (mine was effectively the “white trash” end, which was a very narrow band in Hong Kong at the time), there were also language issues.

Until arriving in Hong Kong, I had been under the badly mistaken impression that Yanks and Brits spoke the same language. The foreign community in Hong Kong in the early 1970s was dominated by people from the British Isles, many of whose accents I found very difficult to understand.

After having lived in Vivian’s flat for nearly one month, I was getting dressed for work one morning in my room. She knocked on my door and said: “The loo’s gone potty.”

Her sentence did not compute for me, so I asked if she could repeat the message through my still-closed door.

Again came the statement: “The loo. The loo’s gone potty.”

“Loo” sounded vaguely like a Chinese rather than English word to me, but Vivian didn’t speak Chinese, and I had no idea what “loo” meant.

“Potty” in American English is a word meaning toilet which is used when talking with very young children. It also didn’t seem to fit in here. This was confusing.

So, I asked her to repeat the message yet again. The door was still closed between us, which added some symbolism to our failure to communicate.

She must now have been as impatient with the dumb American as I was embarrassed with my failure to understand her apparently simple statement.

As people sometimes do when speaking to foreigners who are having difficulty understanding, she repeated the same words but in a much louder voice:

“THE LOO. THE LOO. THE LOO IS BROKEN.”

Now totally perplexed, I zeroed in on the key word with my final follow-on question:

“Where is the loo?”

A deafening silence followed, during which she was no doubt pondering how it could be possible that after three weeks’ living there, this odd American backpacker chap had not yet found the toilet, which is of course — as I learned for the first time that morning — the meaning of “loo” in British English.

The loo conversation was a turning point in our landlord-tenant relationship. I moved out within a week in search of a new home. I could neither afford to travel in the young colonial expats’ social circuit, nor was I interested in doing so.


更多



阅读数 122,198 / 122,198 views



发表评论

电子邮件地址不会被公开。 必填项已用*标注

:wink: :-| :-x :twisted: :) 8-O :( :roll: :-P :oops: :-o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :-D :evil: :cry: 8) :arrow: :-? :?: :!: