Readers' Submissions

Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 323

  • Written by Dana
  • April 14th, 2012
  • 12 min read


Las Vegas

A THAI FILTER

It is not hard to find individuals who will tell you that they like to read dictionaries. But if you randomly break into their houses or burst in on them in their houses you never see dictionaries by the bed, or on the desk, or in their hands. Or on the floor next to the toilet. Randomly burst in on someone who says they like to read dictionaries while they are sitting on the crapper and the chances are slim that they are going to be holding a dictionary in their hands. Odd. Apparently people say things about themselves and about their lives that are not really true. Who would have thunk it?

Recently, I have been behaving exceptionally by reading Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors by Bill Bryson. I am not going to dance like a Go Go girl or clap my hands like a mamasan over this book. It's a good and entertaining book. But honestly, this is in most cases a book you read if imprisoned, or unemployed, or not within one mile of a bargirl. At first this book looks like something thrown together to satisfy a book contract (three books must be delivered in two years); but if you start slowly by reading all of the various parts and sections like the Preface, and the Appendix, and the Bibliography, and the Suggested Reading section, and the Glossary it grows on you (ok, I admit this is an awkward sentence). You start to smile, ruminate, notate (note?), mark with pencil, fold over corners of pages, and learn things. Personally (what else?) I am heartily sick of learning things but it happens anyway.

If you are like me (what are the odds?), you idlely (idly?) start to look for personal or Thai related words or phrases or meanings or linguistic and text issues. I do this with all books that I read now. I have mainlined an interest in all things Thai for so long that I automatically strain all new text through a Thai filter. This makes my life more interesting and my general subject reading more rewarding. Well, in this case, there isn't much of interest in the Thai filter category so next I start to see if Mr. Bryson and I have any writing points of commonality. For instance, I see no listings for the words receipt, or environment, or parallel, or ridiculous, or parenthesises (no idea), or karioke (so many potential spellings you wonder if alcohol was a factor in inventing this word), or pussy (pussey?), or knowledgeable. Clearly these words were never a problem for Mr. Bryson otherwise they would be in his ready reference for troublesome words. I think he is probably a big fat liar on some of these words but that is his story (book) and he is sticking to it.

It ocurred (occurred, occured?–another word that by it's omission Mr. Bryson says he never had trouble with–yeah, sure) to me that it would be amusing to get one of those spelling bee primers with a title like: The One Hundred Most Frequently Misspelled (?) Words. That would be Step One. Step Two would be to publish a book like Bryson's with the title Dana's Dictionary For Writers and Editors: Being A Collection of Personally (?) Difficult Words To Spell. In this book I would not list one of the 'one hundred most frequently misspelled (?) words' you read about in other books. Ok, it's a private pleasure. Anyway, back to Bryson.

The great Internet comment whale Fanta used to spout on the website Mangosauce (R.I.P.) that he could recognize (recognise?) my writing because I had misspelled (?) the word ridiculous (rediculous?) again. Anyway, I enjoyed browsing to no purpose through Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Please god (God?) no learning, just ruminative browsing. And, as usual, with all my reading I looked for anything that could be squeezed (swoze, squeezified?) through the Thai filter. I automatically do this with everything I read: looking in the indexes for touchstones to the Kingdom. I know, I already said that. Some things just become defining things. I recently finished a big fat book on the building of the transcontinental Canadian railroad in the 19th century. Yup, I checked the Index for references to Siam. Hey, you never know.

Anyway, pretty lean pickings with this book in the (ye?) old (olde?) Thai references department (dept.?), but I did stumble across Hero and Leander on page 158 (c2008). To wit:

"Hero and Leander. Tragic lovers in Greek legend; Hero drowned herself in despair after Leander perished while swimming the Hellespont to see her."

Bingo. If this does not satisfy personal trivial needs to paint everything with a Thai patina nothing does. Suubstitute Somchai and Bang for Hero and Leander. Have Somchai swimming the Chao Phraya river dodging rice barges and Oriental Hotel water taxis (taxies?) to Bang on the Thonburi shore and I think you have a final episode Thai TV script. Imagine yourself and your teeruk propped up with pillows in room 612 at the Mothership. Somchai is drowning and Bang is drowning and the banks of the river are choked with wailing, and screaming, and crying, and blubbering, and overacting Thais. Beautiful.

Of course, in next week's episode (you will have a different girl with you in room 612), Somchai and Bang who drowned last week will miraculously be alive and tooling around Bangkok in a candy cane red Benz with white leather interior. Only in Thailand . . . and Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors.

Anyway, at the start we are informed that: this dictionary of Bryson's is " . . . a quick, concise guide to the problems of English spelling and usage most commonly encounted by writers and editors . . . It is a personal collection, built upon thirty years as a writer . . . " Really? Ok, Bill; let's try one.

Page 312 (c2008): Sithole, Rev. Ndebaningi. (1920-2000) Zimbabwean clergyman and politician.
Sithole? Oh, come on Bill. Sithole? I hope you don't have a lisp. How many times in your career "as a writer and editor in two countries" did you have occasion to use this reference? You're just having us on Bill but it did make me laugh to imagine the clergyman and his family: Mr. and Mrs. Sithole and all their little Sitholes.
Hey, that reminds me of a reference I use a lot in my writing that I could insert in Dana's Dictionary for Writers and Editors. To wit:

Fxxxit, Sir Monger. (1949–present). American South Pattaya boulevard prowler. Often used in references and sentences like:

'Sir Monger and Ima Fxxxit and all their little Fxxxits.'

And so we assume as slaves to logic and a desire to believe that as the night follows the day and the request for taxi fare follows the lay that words that do not appear in Bryson's personal dictionary are words he never had occasion to have a problem spelling or knowing the meaning of, and the words that do appear here are important enough to be in a ready reference beside his laptop. Really? Oh contraire my little dictionary dweeb–let's try a few:

I've already brought up some traditional and personal word issues like receipt, and environment, and karioke, and pussy, and parenthesises, and ridiculous, and idly, and misspelled, and knowledgeable; none of which ever caused Bill any stress. Makes you wonder about his word, and word meaning, and word use issues; besides Mr. Sithole that is. Well, let's see:

Example One: floccinaucinihilipilification (p.126). The act of estimating as worthless . . . { yes, like this word }. Come on Bill, what did you do–win a bar bet?

Example Two: abiogenesis (p.2). The concept that living matter can arise from nonliving matter; spontaneous generation.

Ok, I quess I have no problem with this word as a word that might come up now and again in a career as a writer and editor; but more to the point, when I read this my Thai filter immediately kicked in. Reminded me of when an idea arises from a Thai bargirl's brain. I quess Bill Bryson must have the same idea about Thai bargirls' brains as I do, which is why he needs this correctly spelled word in his ready reference dictionary. Rock on Bill.

Example Three: apropos (p.19). In French, a propos.

No surprise here Bill. I thought this word was spelled apros pois (or aprospois) for about twenty years. I guess you did too. I still like my spelling better. You and me Bill, we're brothers.

Example Four: bildungsroman. (Ger.) (p.40). Novel dealing with a character's early life and psychological development.

Ok, two observations here. First observation, I just don't think we need this word. Just too specific. Silly. To illustrate from my personal life: do we need a word for the meaning "I have more anal discharge today than I had yesterday?"

Observation number two, come on Bill Bryson, how many times did you use this word in your life? Stop messing with us.

Example Five: honorificabilitudinitatibus (p. 164). Information on this word appears later in this essay.
And now I'd like to return to a previously mentioned and important word for all writers and editors (kill the editors). Pussy. Pussey. Pussee. Pusy. Etc.

Pussy (pussey?). You mean Mr. Bryson has never had trouble either before or after downing three beers in the Superbabies Bar spelling the word pussy? Oh, come on Bill; you're playing with the big boys now. Bye the way, have you ever heard a New Zealander say the world pussy? Don't know? Me either. Can't understand one word they say.

Anyway, you would think after 370 pages with approximately 17 special words per page–6290 words that represent professional and personal writing and editing that we might learn something about the author. This personal dictionary would be a window into the heart and mind and life of the author. According to Bill (I call him Bill):

"It is a personal collection, built up over thirty years as a writer and editor in two countries and so inevitably–inescapably–it reflects my own interests, experiences, and blind spots."

Well, there are a lot of German words and several references to Canada. The only thing I could devine about Bill is that he likes to go to Canada and speak German. Oh, ok; it wasn't all hard slogging. I enjoyed this book, and I did learn a few things, and I had some fun lying in the bed late at night and turning the pages and marking items with a pencil. As an example: in the H section of the dictionary I ran across three fun items.

Hobson's choice (p. 161): this was fun to learn about. I thought I knew the meaning but I was incorrect and I am certainly glad the action of Hobson's choice is not a part of choosing bargirls in a bar.
homonym and homophone (p. 163): On a High School test this question would just be cruel. Not even any good for bar bets–just take the knowledge to your grave. Somebody on an Internet chat site going on about the differences between these two words would get all the points but they would not make any friends.
honorificabilitudinitatibus (p.164.) From Shakespeare. You take a look at a word like this and you know either Willie the Shake was mainlining some heavy duty mojo made from fried squirrels' balls, or he and the local sheriff had a line on free beer. Hey, I'm not takin' sides; I'm just sayin' is all. I am not going to ask how many times Mr. Bryson had occasion to use this word that it had to be inserted in his own personal dictionary. The question would be as silly as the word.

Don't get me wrong. This guy Bryson is probably a regular guy. I'm sure just like every other writer I have ever heard of, read about, or talked to; when he is having a problem with a plot point, or character development, or narrative resolution and he gets frustrated he starts jacking off and man stuff is flying like an explosion in a paint factory (batch #7NSE-V2, semi-gloss, Oyster White). If you ever come to Pattaya to visit my writer's lair in the 6th floor ocean facing suite at the A.A.Hotel check out the walls. Just sayin'. However, there is a limit to the kinds of words we can be reasonably be expected to believe he used so often he had to have them in a ready reference desk dictionary. Honorificabilitudinitatibus? Oh, please. What's next, you've got 12"? Only Emma the tranny has 12". But I almost digress.

Next time a teeruk in the Kingdom asks you your name: tell her your name is Honorificabilitudinitatibus. See if she can track you to your lair in Ohio, or Sydney, or Lisbon with her sick buffalo story. Hey, and when she has Google cross reference the name it will come up Love's Labour's Lost. Sweet irony, huh?

So, what Thai filter lesson can we take away from this book? Simple. If you are lounging around the pool at the Oriental Hotel making eyes at a fat Bangkok divorcee and you happen to spot a Thai named Somchai trying to swim across the Chao Phraya river to get to a woman named Bang: don't interfere. Sure he is going to get run down by a water taxi with the name Mai Pen Rai, and sure Bang is going to leap from the Thonburi side ferry dock and drown; but it won't do them any good for you to get involved. It's destiny, and it's Thai TV, and it's Bryson's Dictionary for Writers and Editors.


Billboard

Stickman's thoughts:

I am presently away from Bangkok on holiday and don't have time to make comments. It was either no comments or no subs. I chose to publish, but without any comments.