Without being disrespectful, I do enjoy the way some Thais pronounce English, in fact I am learning some Thai English myself, e.g. ‘Fiss and Tips’ is Fish and Chips, ‘no spik enlik’ is I don’t speak English, and the letter ‘s’ pronounced as ‘sa’ such as ‘sa-mile’, ‘sa-mall’ and so on.
One thing I enjoy during my walks around Bangkok, is stopping in a café for a refreshing glass of ‘Iced Tea’. Now, very often, the Thai waiters do not understand the order until you repeat it a few times, as the Thai’s tend to pronounce Iced Tea as ‘IT.’ (IT pronounced with rapid succession), and Hot Tea is pronounced as ‘Hottie’.
Recently, I dropped into a street side café, and was attended by a young, enthusiastic waiter, and I confidently ordered IT., and the conversation went like this… He thought about my order for a second, and responded,
“I lemon T?”
I looked at him, and said, “No, just IT.”
He quickly responded, “Okay, I apple T?” “No,” I said. “I just want IT., no lemon and no apple.”
Silence for a minute, expressionless, then a slight smile, “Strawberry?”
I picked up a menu from another table, opened the drinks page, and found the iced tea list. I showed him the list with iced lemon tea, and put my finger over the word lemon, and said, “Look, no lemon, only IT.”
He nodded seriously, thought about it for a few seconds, and said, “I go get manager.”
I watched the waiter go over to a smart young man, whom I assumed was the manager. They were obviously discussing the situation, as they both kept glancing in my direction. This grumpy farang had obviously disrupted their otherwise uneventful morning.
I could have happily accepted any of the iced tea flavours, but as battle had begun, I was determined to stand firm on my request. After a few minutes, the manager strolled over to my table, and greeted me with a sawadee kap, how are you today, and how can I help you. I explained that I had been trying to explain to the boy that I wanted plain IT. with no fruit flavours. At the word ‘fruit flavours’, the manager opened the menu, and pointed to the page, saying, “We have many flavours.”
“No,” I said. “No fruit flavours.”
“Oh, okay, so you want hottie?”
“No, not hottie, just IT.”
“Oh, I lemon T?”
Tempted to grab the manager by the throat, I calmly said, “I just want T, chai, tea with I, ice, namkaeng.”
The manager nodded. With an expression that he finally understood, he said, “Okay IT. I will tell kitchen,” and off he went. Some minutes later, my iced tea arrived, nicely presented in a tall glass, with a sprig of mint, and a slice of lemon lodged over the top of the glass. I received it triumphantly from the waiter with a, see, I got what I wanted, look on my face, and sat back to enjoy.
Actually, it wasn’t exactly what I ordered, although iced kiwi fruit tea is not that bad at all.
More by this author in his newly-published biography, Happy Jack: Reflections of Growing Up During the Sixties – A Decade of Rebellion, Change and Defining Moments.