TYPE B in TAIPEI, PART I: Unintentional Swearing, and Other Side Effects of Allergies

The coral beach at Liuciu Island.

The coral beach at Liuciu Island.

I have accidentally said “fuck” to elementary students in two languages in two different countries, both within two weeks of arriving in those countries. Can you say the same? Probably not, I’m guessing, but no worries. It’s an extraordinarily simple thing to do. For example, in Korean, the word for “eighteen” is ship-pal and the word for “fuck” is sshib-bal (the only real difference is that the entry “s” sound is strongly aspirated for “fuck”). Therefore, you can probably understand how I once said, “I left home when I was fuck [in Korean].” Now, in the Taiwanese dialect of Chinese, the word for fuck is gahn, but the “n” sound is almost silent (on the mainland, this verb merely means “to do”). The main elementary school where I now work in Douliu City has a small English village and I’ve been assigned to teach the Airport class on Tuesdays and Fridays. On my first day, while attempting to say, “ A gun is very dangerous. You can’t take a gun on the airplane,” my voice wasn’t its normal self due to my allergies being particularly bad that day. So, with the help of nasal congestion, what I actually said was, “A fuck [in Chinese] is very dangerous. You can’t take a fuck on the airplane.” This leads me to a new personal goal I’ve established: whatever country I move to next, I want to make it at least a month before I accidentally swear at students in whatever language they speak.

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