Monday, December 10, 2012

Soflee, soflee, catchee monkee

Fifty years ago, Pidgin English had a bad reputation. Nowadays, the value of any pidgin--essentially a simplified language to permit two or more folk without a common language to communicate--is widely recognized . I shall never forget becoming aware of this, when my ship (H.M.S. Black Swan) first visited Shanghai in 1947. I was accustomed to the cooks, stewards, and "supernumerary" laundrymen chattering away in Cantonese, but that's not the Mandarin dialect spoken in Shanghai. I watched, fascinated, as the Chief Steward used pidgin English when negotiating for fresh vegetables with the occupants of the various sampans that swarmed alongside.. So I am not embarrassed to use pidgin to write the aphorism that heads this blog, just as I learned it. It is useful in a benign, not hostile, sense, with no thought of trapping and caging an animal. I consider it good advice: that sometimes patience, perhaps with a streak of guile, is often the wisest way to accomplish an objective. .

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