Friday, July 03, 2020

Stephff’s cartoons are a valuable historical record of our times

Sep 16. 2018
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Re:  “You are a delusional farang in Thailand if you need to keep telling everyone that your girlfriend is not an ex-bargirl”, Editorial cartoon, September 15-16.

Fastidious readers may be tempted to chide Stephff for a linguistic error in this recent offering. Here the bargirl Lek is quoted as saying, “I finally settled down with one of my regular clients.” 

Purists will maintain that no bargirl would ever speak such grammatically correct English.  She would also not be likely to say “clients” – not only because she would not know the word, but also because she wouldn’t be able to pronounce the initial “CL” and final “TS” sounds. At best, she might manage to say “crient”. She would be far more likely to refer to her victim as “cuttomer me”.

But here we must cut Stephff some slack. Given the grammatically correct English (technically known among linguists as Barglish) spoken by both of the charming lasses in this cartoon, we must assume that their dialogue has been translated from Thai. Hence the purity of its grammar and pronunciation, a phenomenon alien to the English speech patterns of most bargirls.

I have long maintained that switched-on book publishers in Thailand should launch a bidding war for the privilege of publishing a book (maybe more than one) of Stephff’s cartoons. Thus they would preserve a valuable historical record of our times, an essential part of the rich heritage of contemporary Bangkokians. But alas, this is an age dominated by Philistines and Pharisees. To my knowledge, there are no switched-on book publishers left in Thailand. They have all either fled to more salubrious economic climes or have been driven to extinction by the smartphone and the iPad. But if there are any left, they would be well advised to publish one or more collections of Stephff’s cartoons.

Ye Olde Pedant

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