Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Eh Poh Nim Goes Colloquial

I've created a character called Eh Poh Nim, a talkative young woman who's something of an English expert. Appearing in The Star's Mind Our English page today is the third article on Eh Poh Nim. The link to the article, Eh Poh Nim goes colloquial is here but after one month Star will remove it from the online archives.

Note : I've decided to paste the entire article here.


Eh Poh Nim wakes up late this morning, so she rushes to work without breakfast. At ten-thirty, her stomach starts to growl. She decides to pop over to the bakery downstairs to grab something to eat.

“Good morning. May I help you?” the salesgirl in the bakery greets her cheerfully.

“Yes, please. May I have a baker’s dozen of those doughnuts?” Eh Poh Nim points to the small sugary doughnuts piled up on a tray.

The girl counts 12 pieces and puts them into a plastic bag.

“Excuse me, you’ve only given me 12. Thirteen please.”

“You want thirteen, is it? You should have said so.”

“I did. A baker’s dozen is thirteen, not twelve.”

The girl rolls her eyes as she hands the bag to Eh Poh Nim. Just then, the bell chimes as another customer walks into the bakery. He stops in his tracks and exclaims, “Eh Poh Nim, is that you?”

Eh Poh Nim squeals in delight. “John Toh? I haven’t seen you since Form Five! What have you been doing?”

“Went to USA to study architecture. Just came back a year ago.”

“It’s great to see you again. Are you married?”

“No, I don’t have a ball and chain attached to me.”

“Ball and chain? That’s not very nice, John. A wife is a good thing, not a hindrance as implied in this expression.”

“Heehee, I see your linguistic skill is still intact. How about you? Are you married?”

“Still single. Why don’t we have a drink and catch up?”

They settle themselves at a table in a corner of the bakery and order their drinks. Eh Poh Nim offers the doughnuts to John.

“Your breakfast?” he asks.

“Yeah, I woke up late this morning and had to skip breakfast. I forgot to set my alarm and my roommate didn’t wake me up either. She was all schnozzled up and overslept.”

“That’s an interesting choice of words. All schnozzled up. That’s American slang for alcohol intoxicated. But then you’ve always been a smart one with words. I remember you were always the top scorer in English.”

Eh Poh Nim blushes. “I remember you as a ball of fire. You were so energetic and ambitious. So, how’s it been since you returned? What do you do?”

John tells her where he works. “I’m giving myself another year to get a promotion.”

“So fast?”

“You’ve said it, Eh Poh Nim, I’m a fireball. They took two of us in as architects but I can easily beat the other guy to the promotion. He’s a cream puff. “

“Cream puff?”

“Hey, I thought you were a hot shot with words? A cream puff is a wimp,” John says with a wink.

“If he’s the wimp, you’re the crackerjack then.”

“Touche, my dear. Yup, I’m the excellent, industrious one. He’s also a clay pigeon.”

“A gullible guy, huh? Why did the company take him on then?”

“He’s a nephew of one of the partners. What about you, Eh Poh Nim? What do you do?”

“I’m a marketing exec with a pharmaceutical company. My office is upstairs.”

“Do you sell that little pill that guarantees big results? Maybe I can get some from you at a discount, eh?” John says with a wink.

She bristles visibly. “There’s been too much ballyhoo about that one. There are other products that can do just as well a job. In fact, our R&D department is working on a product that can top it. When it’s ready to be marketed, we won’t create sensational publicity for it, we’ll just let the product speak for itself.”


“I can’t say more, it’s still confidential.”

“That’s all right, Eh Poh Nim. Excuse me, I have to go check out the plumbing.” John gets up to go to the bathroom.

When he returns in a short while, he pulls a face at Eh Poh Nim. “Some people don’t have the decency to flush. The toilet was floating with caca. Eeww.”

“Must you say it, John?” Eh Poh Nim pushes her iced lemon tea away.

“Sorry. Are you feeling green around the gills?”

“It’s okay. I’m not nauseated. Just lost my appetite, that’s all.”

“Sorry for being such a beetle brain.”

“You’re not a stupid person. Just don’t bring out that subject during a meal. Let’s go. I’ve got to get back to work before my boss misses me.”

“Eh Poh Nim, before you go, may I ask you something?”


“Do you know any A.C.-D.C. guys?”

Eh Poh Nim’s jaw drops.

“Close your mouth, girl. A mozzie is gonna fly in. You know what A.C.-D.C. is, don’t you?”

She nods. “Bisexual. Are you one?”

“Ssshhh...Not so loud. Give me a call if you do,” he says as he hands her his calling card.

Eh Poh Nim walks off in a daze as she tries to digest this piece of news. For all her forward loquaciousness, she’s an old-fashioned girl at heart.

Ref: NTC’s Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard Spears


Kak Teh said...

Lydia - that 'checking the plumbing' is interesting - in Britain, it is 'spend a penny' although of course its more than a penny these days, or'to go to the Johns'.
yes - i sometimes read your Eh poh Nim - interesting!
is she an ah lian as well.

Lydia Teh said...

Kak Teh, 'spend a penny' - that's a new one. In Msia the literal translation would be "spend twenty sen." Eh Poh Nim isn't an Ah Lian, she's twenty-something, a smart and decent woman who dresses as well as any other career woman. Thanks.

Doreen said...

Read that page this morning while waiting in the car for time to pass (was early for my appointment, you just can never estimate travelling time in KL!).. and I saw "By Lydia Teh".. and I went "The Lydia at" LOL. Then I read the end where it says author of Life's Like That. Aaah. Where did you come up with such a name anyway.. the Eh Poh Nim name..?

Lydia Teh said...

Doreen, you read till the end of the article. Good! Some people don't. Eh Poh Nim is actually lifted from 'eponym' which I wrote about in the previous two articles. Also in The Star.

Nadia said...

waa lydia....I love that piece.....a great read! Thanks for maaa everything you write that comes out :)

Lydia Teh said...

Thanks, Nadia. Aiyo, you knowlah, the newspapers only maintain article in archive for one month, dunno if must ask for permission or not to post indefinitely on the blog :)

Kak Teh said...

Lydia, I thought the way you used the word eponym to be Eh Poh Nim is so clever. Then I suddenly thought - I want to create another character called Miss Norma (misnomer?) but must think hard for examples. and another one must surely be - Spoona risma (spoonerism sufferers like me) and there's one more I forgot....will come back with that one.

Kak Teh said...

..yes, now I got it - Miss Mala Pormisma (Malapropism) We can have good fun when these characters meet..can be educational too you know Lydia - we can start something here.

Lydia Teh said...

Kak Teh, Thank you (senyum-senyum kambing). I must admit Eh Poh Nim was conceived in a rare moment of brilliant inspiration (could do with more of these instead of staring at keyboard then looking up to see stars). Miss Norma for misnomer is a great idea. Spoonerism and malapropism, aiyo, such big words, I have to check dictionary to see what they are. But there are lots of examples of these words, I just googled them and got many results. But oredi got Ms. Mala Prop online. It'll be a riot when these girls meet up, my my. Ok, email.

Queen Of The House said...

Lydia, I love the eponym/Eh Poh Nym stories which, yes, I have read till the end in the Star. Now, as suggested by Kak Teh, you really should create a whole family/circle of friends like her, with mannerisms and attitudes to match. I would definitely love a spoonerism-related character. I came across this What a riot. Meducating the Asses !!! Hahahah.

Lydia Teh said...

Queen, you've just started blogging! Welcome. Thanks for your suggestion, nanti Kak Teh scold me for stealing her ideaslah.

Queen Of The House said...

I remember learning all about idioms in primary school. Then many years later, 'idioms' take on a new meaning when in the US I found out that the Americans have their own brand of idiomatic expressions/slang/jargon/whatever you call them. Those who weren't linguistically well-equipped to begin with, had a very hard time getting used to this. But it was fun, for me. Even more fun now when you read bad subtitles miserably translating these expressions. And sadly, I don't know if the kids nowadays are even learning at all about idioms/colloquialism in primary school. Oh I have lots to complain about the teaching of English in (my kids') schools. Sigh.

Lydia Teh said...

Queen, the slangs in Eh Poh Nim #3 are American and yes, American idioms are different from English ones. But there are many similar ones too. We can't depend on schools to teach the kids English. They've got to supplement with their own reading.

Kak Teh said...

Queen, lydia - never mind we create these characters together-gether! Anyway, I have written about spoonerism in my blog yonks ago - its under Dear Blab, brab...

Queen Of The House said...

That I must read, Kak Teh. I'll do gig it up, eh, I'll fo gind it, haiya! I'll go thlough your brog lah till I some accose it, Whatever!!

Queen Of The House said...

Found it, KT. Tengah dok makan spaghetti sambil baca, and I almost poked on my specialty (heh heh aka choked on my spaghetti). So excuse me now while I go type the weirs!

Lydia Teh said...

Queen, which month is it under? That's whylah Kak Teh, you don't categorize your entries, susah to dig you know.

Queen Of The House said...

January 2005. KT was so kind to go roundabout way to find my blog and told me where to look.

(Why am I having such a hard time leaving comments here today? Type already .... nothing. Type again.... nothing)

nhah said...

yup...i totally agree with queensofthehouse idea of creating a whole family of eh poh nim..
i definitely go and buy this eh poh nim books...or just read from star online...:)