Wednesday, July 27, 2005

From the long term memory banks

My extraordinarily practical mum has convinced my rellies in Hong Kong that, instead of buying clothes and things for the baby, they ought to send me money. While I was sitting there hearing her tell me this, I tried to think of what gifts we could do with which would have been cheaper to buy in Hong Kong than in NZ - plenty, probably.

I remember us receiving regular parcels from Hong Kong when we were kids. (It was a mini cargo cult at our house). Usually it was stuff like dehydrated herbs and animal parts, bed linen and clothes which were either way too big, way too small or way too cute for us to wear.

One item I particularly remember finding in one of these parcels was a box of those educational cue cards parents use to teach kids how to recognise words, only these ones were bilingual. There was one with a picture of a cute pink piglet on it, and of course the word 'pig' in English and Chinese. When my mum told me how to pronounce the word in Cantonese I thought it was the funniest thing ever, because it sounded exactly the same as the name of my mum's best friend. It was actually quite some time before I realised that my mum's friend's name was not Pig, but Pearl. (This is where Cantonese-speaking readers will guffaw until the cereal they're eating comes out of their nostrils, because they know that those two words are homonyms.)

5 comments:

EB said...

I looked forward to the parcels with the funny smell and green wrapping from our rellies in HK. We had a hard cover picture book that was bilingual for kids. Are you going to raise a Baby that can talk back to you in more than one language?
Would you believe I don't know enough Cantonese to appreciate Pig and Pearl (not pearls before swine eh?) and not enough English to know what homonym is.

Violet said...

Yeah, our parcels were wrapped in that green paper too. Must be a Hong Kong thing, eh? It would be nice if Baby can understand a bit of Cantonese, but my own Cantonese is not that great and I'm not sure how much effort I want to put into language education.

I had to look hononym up in the dictionary to make sure I had the right word! They are words which sound or spell the same, but have different meanings.

Desiree said...

We used to get our parcels delivered in brown paper or special envelopes (depending on what our grandmother had ordered from HK for us). They usually contained really interesting sweets and chocolate, or dried fruits that my parents couldn't get here. I can relate to EB's funny smell comment!
We got the books and flashcards too, but I never got the hang of it...
I'll have to ask Mum or Dad about how we say Pig or Pearl in my dialect which is different to yours.
Anyway, I think your Cantonese is light years better than mine.

glomgold said...

I know nothing of this green wrapping paper but, now that you mention it, 'pig' & 'pearl' sound the same in Mandarin too! Hee hee, I guess the name doesn't sound as pretty when thought of in this light.

Violet said...

If those two words sound the same in Mandarin, then there's a good chance they'll sound the same in Desiree's dialect. EB's "pearls before swine" is amusing though.