Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dictionary malfunction.

One day my companion and I were riding our bikes on the main road through Yasotorn when a car drove by honking the horn. They suddenly pulled over right in front of us and the driver dressed in a Thai military uniform got out and said he needed help. We rode up to the car and the passenger rolled down the window. It was an American Army Captain with a confused look on his face. He introduced himself and explained that he was in Thailand on a training mission and his Thai counterpart was trying to show him around. The Captain had heard that one thing Thailand was famous for was silk, so he wanted to buy his wife some silk pajamas. He didn't speak Thai and his well meaning counterpart didn't speak English. He had a travel dictionary and had been communicating by pointing at words in English and his friend could read the Thai word. He was pointing at the word for buy, and then flipping pages to the word pajamas. His travel dictionary didn't have the word "silk" in it. The Thai officer nodded as though he understood and then drove him to a bar. The Captain tried again but this time added some hand motions for wife, clothes and sleep. He was taken to another bar. The Thai officer was on the way to yet another bar when they saw us. Upon examination of the words in the dictionary the translation for buy was correct but the word for pajamas had a typo so in Thai it only meant "sleep." The Thai officer thought his friend wanted to buy some sleep with a female companion. He was a little embarrassed when we explained that he wanted to buy pajamas for his wife. We led them to the big store in town and helped translate for the Captain. Unfortunately he couldn't find pajamas because as the sales associate explained, Thai silk is rough, not smooth like Chinese silk so it wouldn't make good pajamas.

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