Friday, February 17, 2012

Coconut Milk?

This dessert is called Nam Wan (sweet water). Like I said in this post, it's made with coconut milk, sugar syrup, ice, and little jellies. It's kindof a do-it-yourself dessert. All of the ingredients are laid out for you and you can put them together yourself.

A few years ago, I was in a restaurant similar to the one that I went to for Valentine's Day, and they'd run out of coconut milk. I was excited to try out my Lao language skills (I'd been taking classes for about a month) to inform the staff that there wasn't any coconut milk.

I knew how to say coconut.

I knew how to say milk.

I walked up to a lady who worked there and (thought I) said "Excuse me, I want coconut milk."

She first looked surprised, looked down, looked at me, and then looked confused.

I knew I had to revert to hand gestures, so I pointed to my bowl and said "Want."

THIS she understood, and I received my coconut milk.

I sat back at my table and wondered how she could have possibly been confused by my very clear language. Then it dawned on me- the word for milk is the same as the word for...boobs.

I had asked for coconut boobs.

So how HOW, you ask, can you tell if the person is trying to say 'milk' or if they're saying 'boobs'? It's completely contextual. The real word for 'coconut milk' doesn't have the word 'milk' in it at all.

I try to avoid using this particular word altogether.

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