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  • Jacqueline Le Sueur

Was that a quickie ... or ... ?

(First published in 2007 when I was living in Singapore)

A gentle, mellow, early start to the day. A welcome respite from the wetness of the past couple of days. A journey to my local market at 7am stocked up my fridge and stirred up my appetite. What a refreshing change it was to leave the house in a jersey.

A while later, I was sitting outside drinking an early coffee and nibbling a Danish pastry with a friend.

We were talking about communication and how some lucky souls have a natural ability to pick up languages with the ease most of us pick up a cold, able to chatter away in tongues far from their own with a near-perfect accent. Somehow we got on to the ever-increasing number of words that are ‘dragged and dropped’ into a variety of languages without translation. Like latte, for example.

My friend told me about a conversation she overheard in a cafe recently ...

“Hi Sir. What can I get you?” said the young, pretty female server.

“Hmmm...a latte, please,” replied the well-dressed, middle aged Singaporean Chinese gentleman at the head of the queue. “And a quickie.”

“A quickie?” cried the young lady behind the counter with rising intonation and disbelief in her voice.

“Yes, that’s right. A quickie,” was his confident response.

“Sir, this is a cafe,” bellowed a masculine voice, “not a place of disrepute. Watch your language please.”

The supervisor moved from his spot at the back counter to the till, his hand protectively on the young server’s shoulder, glaring with heavy eyes at the now-shocked customer.

“Look, there,” said the customer, pointing at the display cabinet... a spinach and mushroom quiche...

“that’s what I want. A quickie.”

Which just goes to’s not what we say but how we say it that counts.

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