30 September 2005

I swear.

I swear a lot. Sometimes in English, sometimes BM. By the moon and the stars in the sky though, I swear mostly in Hokkien and less in Cantonese. I will swear for any reason under the sun but cliches especially wind me up: I see the question in your eyes; I know what’s weighing on your mind. That sort of thing. So how did this come to be?

We spoke much Hokkien and Cantonese in school, but little else. So our Principal decreed that we should speak only in BM and English. You can be sure that whatever a Principal decrees, her students will cheerfully ignore. I know my part in the whole scheme: I and everyone else carried on regardless.

We were bunch of subversives. We were being just a little bit silly. I won't apologize though, because I’ll stand beside what I’ve done. It’s not that we didn’t like our English and BM, but we communicated better in Hokkien and Cantonese. We have been like this down through all the years. I swear!

I get all misty-eyed when I think about the good old days, but I can only cry those happy tears. It was loads of fun, doing something we weren’t supposed to do. We knew that we were supposed to practice our English and BM, but we understood one another very well regardless.

And though I make mistakes now as I did before, good can come from mistakes. It’s like when someone promises, ‘I’ll never break your heart.’ You know better that to take it at face value, but you believe them anyway. A great new world of sharing and of joy opens up before you. A world that is good while it lasts, yet never would have happened until you make the leap of faith.

Thank goodness then, for bait like, ‘I swear by the moon and the stars in the sky,’ and promises to stay close, ‘like the shadow by your side.’ This leads to courtship, marriage and phrases to the effect of, ‘for better or worse,’ ‘’til death do us part,’ and ‘I’ll love you with every beat of my heart.’ I swear….

Back to language, it can be said that those years spent speaking Hokkien and Cantonese immensely enriched my vocabulary. Hokkien in particular is handy when I feel strongly enough about something. If you wind me up enough, I’ll give you everything I can. A strong dose of the inveNctive for which this blog is named is comes together so naturally in Hokkien.

For example, the extravagant offer to ‘build your dreams with these two hands,’ stops immediately when parts of their anatomy are named publicly in Hokkien. Yes, we’ll hang some memories on the wall, next to their publicly-named bits.

I had some really good friends. We would go out together, make noise together and get yelled at by teachers together. It was great fun. It also made for great swearing. Once, we were having a discussion about an upcoming road trip when one of us teased another, more attractive (but bashful) person, ‘And when just the two of us are there, will you show me yours?’ His reply doesn’t bear repeating, but it was the longest string of swear words I’d ever heard. Naturally, we laughed ourselves silly afterwards.

In case you wondered, you won’t have to ask if I still care. I do, about my friends, about language and about swearing. It’s a peculiar form of love. Still, with each passing day, as time turns the page, memories grow more faint. Yet another reason to swear, but I’m also doing something about it. I’m blogging, so that when I’m old and senile, I could read this and remember however faintly, what things were like. But you know what? My love won’t age at all.

The hardy souls among you who have persevered to the end of this post will have noticed that this isn’t just about Hokkien, Cantonese, English or BM. It’s not about disobedience or ineffective decrees. There’s more to it than love, friends and sticking together. There’s bits of a song scattered throughout my rambling half-memories. So let’s finish it here. All together now:

I swear, by the moon and the stars in the sky, (I’ll be there),
And I swear, like the shadow that's by your side, (I’ll be there),
For better or worse, 'til death do us part,
I’ll love you with every beat of my heart,
And I swear


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