Tieng Viet

Vietnamese language is another of those languages with mixed origins.  It seems like the languages of the most successful countries are so, the hybrid vigor thing and all that.  Vietnam may not be so successful, but it is strong, as America found out.  The Vietnamese greeting equivalent to “How are you?” is literally “Are you strong?”  The language sounds like somebody playing banjo with a loose string.  Try to get a handle on it and it slips through your fingers like sand through the hourglass.  That’s a bad cliché, like ‘Days of Our Lives.’  Sounds and syllables fall from your hands like chopped vegetables spilling over the edge of a hot wok, dancing lightly over a surface of super-heated oil, an experiment in theoretical physics gone terribly wrong.  The words spoken are themselves chopped karate landing on the bearded surface of your white skin, little slaps in the face each of them, just begging for a response.  Give it to them.  When you prove you can be as big an asshole as they are, then you’re part of the club, a full member with honors.  There’s no age requirement.  Even little kids are in on it.  You sit reading the paper on a park bench in Hanoi and some kid just comes up and pokes you like you’re some animal in a cage that he wants to hear squawk.  Throw him to the ground and now there’s a bond between us.  Go figure again. 

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