Thursday, February 27 2020


An end to familiarity?

Update: July, 01/2014 - 09:56

If you are learning Vietnamese, it must be chaotic trying to learn personal pronouns. Instead of only "you" and "I", Vietnamese has dozens, depending on the position and age of the one being addressed.

We say toi (I) in a formal way, but em when addressing someone of slightly higher age; con when addressing someone of your parents' age; and chau when talking to people of older ages. We call an older person chu/co (uncle/aunt), anh/chi (brother/sister) in a way similar to how Westerners affectionately describe friends as uncles or aunts.

For a long time in Viet Nam, such terms have been used at home and in the workplace and are considered part of the Vietnamese language. Many people arrive at work calling their bosses chu or co or anh and chi as if they are their family members.

It's part of the culture, Vietnamese maintain, and helps draw people closer. Even Westerns are attracted by the charm and beauty of the system.

However, a draft circular from the Ministry of Home Affairs plans to stop all this! Indeed it wants to regulate that the honorifics "uncle" or "aunt" etc. be no longer used in public offices. Instead, it hopes, employees will start describing themselves as toi, the most formal way of representing all social and age levels.

The honorifics for colleagues who are as close as uncles, ants, brothers and sisters would also be changed to ong (mister) and ba (miss) or their position titles. The ministry claims that getting rid of terms that are too familiar will produce equality and parity in the office.

Many people, in fact, agree with the draft regulation, saying that it would avoid the odd situation where elderly people go to public offices and refer to public servants as their con/ chau (children or grandchildren). Meanwhile, many young people are duty bound to call refer to public servants as their uncles or aunts.

But many others object to the changes. They say it sounds like the work of people who have nothing better to do. They say that toi sounds too formal and makes people feel cold and indifferent.

But whatever happens, people will have to start counting the years - or decades - that will be needed before toi replaces all the other "I's" in the Vietnamese workplace.

Instant fame has a price

Pop singer Le Roi (Falling tears) has become famous overnight - in less than 10 days according to most who have heard of him. The Hai Duong star, Nguyen Duc Hau (his real name), became an overnight phenomenon when his video clips were posted on YouTube.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) Le Roi's songs are rather amateurish and the recording quality is even worse. But the online fans just love him! Hundreds search for his clips, even if it just to make them laugh or cry. It's not for nothing that he's known as a "musical disaster".

Even the key word in his nickname has more than 22.4 million "finds" on Google. People talk about him and listen to his songs so much that there is even a saying that: "All people and households are listening to Le Roi."

But becoming famous has its downside. As his popularity zooms upwards like Elvis, the media and fans are hunting him down. Hundreds of people have stormed his house trying to get anything from an interview to a photo - or, heaven-on-a-stick, have a talk with him. Some fans have even jumped over the fence and wrecked his family's guava grove.

Now Mr Le Roi has to beg people to let him and his family alone.

Footy wins by landslide (of crabs)

Footy fans in Viet Nam have joined others around the world eating, praying and loving the World Cup. Like in the previous Cup season, pawnshops have mushroomed everywhere in Mekong Delta provinces as gamblers put their "money where their mouths are" - as they say in Australia.

TV sets, phones, iPads are prime security for a bet. However, some gamblers down South have created history by having live aquaculture products, such as fish, crabs and prawns, accepted as security for a loan.

Just for the record, for every kilo of mud crab, they get about VND500,000, or US$ 23.8, which is the going price for fine, live specimens. Some pawnshops actually hold the fish and crabs in holding tanks instead of leaving them in the owner's ponds.

Can't imagine pawnshops in the cities being as obliging. — VNS

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