A conversation with Mr. Tran.
I had addressed the elephant in the room: “những vì sao vần ồn”;“all the stars that rhythm with ồn”, my translation faux pas this past week. Since perhaps in learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn. “Ồn” here rhymes with a misogynistic crude description of the female genitalia I’m mortified to even spell out in English. Hence, the ongoing joke in Vietnam that you should never write a poem rhyming with “ồn”. I’ve learned all these interesting facts on Google, thank you Google. But what was never apparent to me was the idea of asking my husband, and he of course is the only man I could possibly ask to explain such a demeaning word. Ironically he learnt of the term a few years back from older Vietnamese golfers, as the term was casually passed around while they swung their skinny sticks at tiny tiny balls. My husband, being a shy man, never asks, he puts the pieces together on his own, oh so “L” and “ồn” means c…, the word has little meaning to him. Lots of Vietnamese words have little meaning to him, since disgust is expressed in his first language which is English. We giggled, he and I, repeating the word over and over again “L.., l.., l..” in the car during our drive to work.
I’m disappointed in my lack of knowledge, but I’m more disappointed in the way a young Vietnamese female teacher was implicated in such a derogative and misogynistic manner. She in her naivety wrote a poem on pride and love of country, in a moment inspired. I’m guilty of condoning such vicious online bullying the past week. Because of the men, they are strong. The men, they are brave. The men, wise and full of wisdom and intelligence. Congratulations to these wonderful men with their shiny long sticks and hard round little balls. This young woman, she shouldered it all. Alone. On her own.
Nguyễn Thị Phương Trâm, the blogger, poet, and translator, was born in 1971 in Phu Nhuan, Saigon, Vietnam. The pharmacist currently lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia.