Flip flopping language
Or how your shoes can make you memorable
Two of my favourite things in the world include the nuance of language and shoes. One stimulates my intellect, the other my aesthetic. This is a story about how these two loves once collided.
Back in ‘nam (just because I like to use that phrase) in 2003, my husband John and I had arrived into Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) mid-morning to stay with friends, Anna and Joe, who had just moved there. Anna’s father and stepmother were staying too. They were leaving that afternoon, so we had a crossover of a few hours.
Arriving at Anna and Joe’s house, we introduced ourselves to her family members and headed out to explore the city. They are English. I haven’t mentioned that, but it’s an important detail. I am Australian. Also an important detail.
Just a short while into our wander around the city, my thong broke. (You may be able to see where this is going already.)
Unwilling to hop – and equally unwilling to have a bare foot on the dusty and somewhat dubious streets of HCMC – I walked into the closest souvenir shop and bought a new pair of locally-made silk thongs. (The ones that broke were also Vietnamese from a 2002 trip.)
Sadly, this second pair of thongs lacked the comfort level of the others and I soon developed a painful blister between my toes. The skin was really quite red and angry.
So we headed back to our friends’ house, earlier than anticipated and met up with her father and stepmother again. The conversation went something like this:
Them: Oh, you’re back early.
Me: Yes, my thong snapped.
John: She replaced it but the new one rubbed her raw.
Me: I couldn’t walk any more.
[DAWNING SENSE OF SOMETHING WRONG AS WE SAW THE LOOKS OF HORROR ON THEIR FACES]
Me: (Blushes) Oh my God! Flip flops. I mean flip flops… not thongs as you know them.
[Editor’s Note: A ‘thong’ to the English is a ‘g-string’ to an Australian]
The sense of relief in the room was palpable. And to this day, every time Anna mentions my name to her family they say:
Oh yes, the thong girl.
About Linda Collard: