One year in China. Let's do this!

Language Flubs of the Milk Kind

My comfort meal comes in the form of my morning breakfast ritual.  When I don’t feel like eating any more fried baby geese on a skewer (don’t worry mom, I haven’t actually been eating any of this…), I just want a nice cup of iced coffee and a tasty pastry to compliment the deliciousness of that heavenly cup of iced coffee.

Geese on a stick?!  Yum.

Geese on a stick?! Yum.

So each morning, I take my cheap self over to Cafe 85 – because paying for a Starbucks coffee seems outlandish when I can get one for a third of the price across the street – and get my coffee.  I order the American style coffee and they put it in a cup and we are good to go.

Now, you may be wondering, why, Charlotte, are you telling me this frightfully boring story about coffee?  Is this really blog post worthy?

Well, here is where the unfortunate language flub happens.  I like some milk in my coffee.  So each morning, in an attempt to be super duper polite, I asked the Chinese man working behind the counter if he had any milk.  Rather than just saying “milk?”, I would try to form a coherent sentence.

The pinyin would be this: Ni you niunai ma?

I would always get the milk in my coffee but the person behind the counter would give me really puzzled looks before going about getting me my iced cup of heavenly coffee and letting me go on my way.  I thought I was messing up the tones or something.  Wrong.

Upon telling my Chinese friend that this is how I ordered my coffee, she burst out laughing.  “Ni you niunai ma?!  NI YOU niunai ma?!  Did you really say that to him, Charlotte???  How many times have you said that?!”

“Umm, quite a few.  Why?  What am I saying?  WHAT AM I SAYING?”

Turns out that by asking this man “Do you have any milk?” and including the “you” in the sentence, I had been using the colloquial way of asking someone whether they were breastfeeding.  Lovely.

So now I drink my coffee black.


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Categorised in: Noms, Shanghai Stories

3 Responses »

  1. LMAO, Charlotte. This blog was hilarious to read. Thank you!


  1. Language Flubs of the Mouse/Teacher Kind | Charlotte's Web of Travels

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