Mabel is my wife.
She's a beautiful human being with a pure soul, a huge heart and an indomitable spirit. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she emigrated to Canada at the tender age of 17 to pursue higher education. After earning her degree she stayed in Edmonton, where we met.
My life was forever altered. We've been together since 1990, and she remains my best friend and the love of my life. I am truly blessed.
Since returning to Hong Kong, Cantonese has again become her dominant language. Her English is great, but when she's tired or distracted it takes a vacation, and that's when the funniest things pop out of her mouth. More than once she's had me in stitches, and it doesn't help that she's insufferably cute.
Collected here are what I've come to call Mabelisms; slips of the tongue or matter-of-fact statements, some of which made me howl with laughter until I leaked around the eyes.
The latest entries are at the page bottom. Enjoy!
We were looking for a place to have lunch when Mabel suggested a liver sandwich.
That grossed me out until I realised she meant Oliver's Sandwiches, a fast food outlet.
We passed a man taking his dachshund for a walk.
Mabel finds this breed irresistible, so she commented on the cute sausage dog. When she asked why I was laughing, I explained we grew up calling them wiener dogs.
Her: What does croissant mean?
Me: It's French. It means crescent.
Her: Oh, I did not know that.
Me: What's the Cantonese for croissant?
Her: Cow horn bun.
We were discussing the merits of different restaurants when Mabel mentioned the Outburst Steakhouse.
She'd meant to say the Outback Steakhouse, and she realised her error, but it was too late. I seized upon it:
Outburst? You mean you sit and yell random things such as:
Waiter! Where the Hell's my beer?!
You call this a salad?!
I said medium-well, dammit!
The feigned rudeness sent her into a fit of giggles.
We were discussing where to have dinner when Mabel suggested the Outbreak Steakhouse.
I laughed as I imagined a menu filled with my choice of viral and bacterial infections.
I was reading in bed, waiting for Mabel to finish brushing her teeth, when she bounced into the room, seized my big toe and proudly announced:
The Big Toe goes to market!
After I'd regained my composure I reminded her how the Little Piggies story actually went.
As we passed through an MTR station, Mabel spotted one of the myriad underwear ads which festoon the walls. It showed a model wearing a strapless bra.
Her: I need to get one of those special bras so I can go topless.
Me: [deadpan] That'd be a good look for you.
Her: [realising] Aiyah! That's not what I meant!
Me: Which cosmetic products do you need me to pick up?
Her: Eye and lip remover.
Me: Do you mean 'Eye and Lip Makeup Remover'? Because I prefer you with your eyes and lips.
Her: [bursts out laughing]
After Mabel had finished her shower, I went to tuck her into bed:
Her: I need to dry clean my hair first.
Me: Why does your hair need dry cleaning?
Her: [eyes widen] Oh.
Scene: I'm clowning around on the bus:
Her: You remind me of the Monster Cookie on Sesame Street.
Me: [bursts out laughing]
Her: What's funny?
Mabel called to let me know how she was planning to return home. It was getting late and the buses to our estate would no longer be operating by the time she'd finished with her friends:
Her: After dinner they will ride me home.
Me: They're going to ride you home?
She couldn't stop laughing for a solid minute.
A late-evening conversation between an exhausted husband and wife:
Her: What's that look?
Me: That's my tired face.
Her: [laughing] I didn't marry a triad.
Me: I said tired, not triad!
Her: Ohhhhh ...
I must remember not to mumble when I'm
On our way home after a nice long massage, Mabel was sleepy.
Her: My eyes are dropping.
Me: Wouldn't you prefer keeping them in your head?
Her: Aiyaaaaah, don't tease me!
We were discussing Mabel's recovery from the flu.
Me: How's your throat feel?
Her: It's getting better. I have two more packs of the Chinese medicine to take. But it's still dry, so I have to bring the sore throat with me.
Me: [blank stare]
Her: Aiyah! I meant throat lozenges!
Late in the evening we discussed where we might go for a nice Sunday brunch or afternoon tea.
During her sister's visit, they'd gone to Mövenpick Marché Restaurant for dessert. Mabel enjoyed it so much she was looking forward to a return visit.
My lovely spouse looked at me with a straight face and suggested we make a reservation at Moby Dick.
Mabel was admiring her manicure:
Her: My fingers grow very fast!
Me: How do you know? Did they get chopped off?
Me: Don't tease me, I'm tired. I made a slip of my mouth.
Me: That's two in less than one minute.
Her: Aiyah! I'm going to bed!
As we strolled down a narrow lane in Macau, I pointed to one of the many restaurants:
Me: What kind of food do they serve there?
Her: It's a seafood restaurant. You can tell by the fish ... containers. What do you call those again?
Me: [deadpan] Tanks.
Upon returning from Macau, Mabel — regretting the end of our brief holiday — fetched a deep sigh and said:
We're back to the cement forest.
After passing through the turnstiles of the train station, on our way to the platform nature called.
Me: Aw, man ... I should have used the washroom in the concourse the same time you did. Now I have to wait.
Her: Don't worry [pointing toward the lower level], there's a pee thing down there.
Me: A pee thing?
After a late dinner, we relaxed on the couch to watch a DVD when Mabel suggested we have some oranges.
Her: Do you want me to cut you up?
Me: [wide eyes]
Me: Do you realise what you just said?
Her: Oh! I mean do you want me to cut you some?
We were eating breakfast with friends in Oʻahu, but Mabel didn't have time to finish her French toast.
She summoned the server and asked a question which I couldn't hear.
Me: Did you ask for a doggy bag?
Her: Oh! I asked her for a piggy bag!
Given the enormous size of the meal, her version was more accurate.
We were discussing the difference in commute time to the heart of Kowloon from a town in the New Territories.
Though convenient, our current location requires up to 10 additional minutes to reach the same destination.
Me: So if we move there, it should take less time than from where we are now.
Her: That's because we live in the boonie.
While in Shenzhen, we sat down for dinner at an old-style restaurant.
The tables were square, bordered by narrow wooden benches.
Her: In the ocean time, people sat like this.
Me: [blink ... blink]
Her: Aiyah! I mean ancient time!
Since the introduction of television on trains, advertisements are played ad nauseum.
One in particular is so annoying I mentioned to Mabel.
Me: I hate this commercial; they play it over and over again — it's driving me crazy!
Her: That's their strategy ... they're bombarking you.
She's right: they're like New Territories village dogs.
We were having a nice dinner, including drinks.
Mabel doesn't imbibe often; she noted the wine was affecting her:
Her: I have to slow down before we go, otherwise I'll be waffling!
Me: You mean wobbly, don't you?
We were discussing Mabel's monetary goals when she looked at me with her most serious expression and said:
I'm determined to get it done this physical year!
As we indulged in a rare treat at Häagen Dazs, Mabel found her chocolate mousse cake contained too much sugar.
Her: I definitely don't have a sweet tongue.
Her: I mean sweet taste bud.
Her: What is it supposed to be?
Me: Sweet tooth.
Her: Aiyah ... I forgot!
Mabel was fatigued from clearing up a mound of paperwork, but this time she corrected herself the second after she spoke:
My eyes are drained. I mean strained!
After Mabel forget to get a towel before washing her face, she asked me to get one for her.
Me: Here you go, Sweety.
Her: I'm Sweety the Birdie?
Me: No, that's Tweety.
While talking over the merits of taking a work break, Mabel agreed she needed time off with an affirmation:
Her: No play makes Jack dumb!
Me: Um ... that's not quite right, honey.
Her: Oh ... how do you say it?
Me: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
After seeing King Kong, I wanted to see how it fared under review. While I was scanning the articles, Mabel entered the office and asked me to check something online for her.
Me: Okay, but give me a couple of minutes — I just want to read a couple of reviews.
Her: [after spotting the site] Are they critters?
Mabel had invited guests to our home in the afternoon and as such was cleaning house.
Her: I need to swipe the floor.
Me: Did you mean sweep, or wipe?
Her: Swipe ... sweep!
Our plans to visit Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden were quashed by rain.
Me: Want to go see a movie?
Her: What movie? Broken Back?
Me: [laughing] Yeah, that's the one ...
Mabel was spelling out details of her business partnership.
After that, they're going to bigly promote me!
Mabel's taxi had arrived and she was rushing to get out the door.
Her: I need to booger!
Me: [not sure I heard her correctly] What did you just say?
Her: I need to booger! Booger, booger, booger!
Me: Um ... you mean boogie.
Her: Oh ... what's booger?
Me: [points to nostril] It's what's in here.
On our way through Lan Kwai Fong to meet someone, I mentioned the name of the place where we were headed.
Her: Is it a hub?
Me: [deadpan] Pub, honey, pub.
I was teasing Mabel, as I often do, when she flashed a mischievous grin, flattened her hand, showed me the edge and made a chopping motion.
Her: Give you a flying knife!
Me: What??? Usually you just punch me.
Mabel was in the shower when I entered the washroom.
Her: Can you give me the air conditioning?
Me: Air conditioning? Why? It's winter.
Her: [thrusts an empty bottle past the shower curtain] No, the air conditioner.
Me: Oh, you meant hair conditioner.
Her: Air, hair ... whatever.
While preparing for a trip to Australia's Gold Coast, we were discussing the need to bring strong sunblock to combat the higher UV levels on the Australian continent.
Me: It's a good idea; I've noticed a lot of Aussies appear to be burnt.
Her: Yes, and they have lots of pickles.
Her: Pickles ... pimples?
Me: You mean freckles, don't you?
I took Mabel clothes shopping. I wanted to find her some good quality smart casual wear for the summer. We'd been to a number of shops in the mall when she made a suggestion.
Her: Let's take a look in High Flier.
Me: High Flier?
Her: Tommy High Finger?
Me: [looking at the store across the hall] Tommy Hilfiger.
Back in 2001, I needed a translation for chewing gum.
Me: What's the Cantonese word for "gum"?
Her: Heung hau gau.
Me: What? Why so many words?
Her: Because of the meaning.
Me: Well, what does it mean?
Her: Fresh mouth plastic.
We had been sipping coffee and reading books for about 20 minutes on a hotel patio. The bright morning sun was at my back, while Mabel sat perpendicular to its warm rays.
Me: Would you like another coffee?
Her: No, one is enough. But I need to change my face.
I'd prepared a picnic lunch for Sunday afternoon, including smoked turkey, honey ham, garlic salami, several types of crackers, baby dill pickles, peanut butter, two kinds of jam, carrot juice and sparkling blueberry lemonade.
While enjoying the repast, Mabel turned and said:
I really like these baby drills!
When Mabel returned home after visiting an aunt during Lunar New Year, her outfit gave off a strong smell of cooking oil.
Me: Wow, your clothes really smell like fried foods.
Her: Of course, so I have to wind blow the clothes.
Me: Do you mean air them out?
We'd made our dinner plans earlier in the day and it was now time to prepare the food.
I was getting things ready: tortillas, chicken, bell peppers, onions, seasoning and so on.
Mabel bounced into the kitchen and said:
Are you making the fajitis?
I complimented Mabel for looking great in her new tailor-made navy jacket and dress shirt.
Her: Thank you. The next one is a power strip!
Me: Pinstripe, honey, pinstripe.
Mabel was enjoying a fresh-fruit beverage as part of her dinner when she made an observation.
Her: Wow, they used the whole peer.
Me: Did you just say peer?
Her: Oh ... is it pear? Pear!
Owing to damage during my early years my hearing isn't as good as should be; I have trouble picking up human voices clearly when in noisy environments.
On a morning train Mabel was speaking in her usual soft voice and I couldn't make out a word. So I bent down and asked her to speak a little louder, by now an old routine.
Me: Sorry, honey, but I couldn't understand a word you said.
Her: Then you need to learn my mouth.
Me: You meant learn to read your lips, didn't you?
Mabel emerged from the washroom searching for a product I had put on the shelf earlier that day.
Her: Where is the hand soup?
Mabel had been lounging in the sun on the balcony of our room at the Westin Macau when she popped in:
Her: I need a pillow, the back of the chair is too low.
Me: Isn't there a height adjustment?
Her: No, that's the toppest.
While discussing a possible future European destination, Mabel turned and said:
Her: Next time we will be in Monique!
Me: Monique? Who's Monique?
Her: Monique: M-U-N-I-C-H.
I was showing Mabel the first batch of images I made in Sicily when she mentioned going back to Europe on our own terms:
Her: We haven't gone to Venus.
Her: Venus is in Italy, right?
Me: Venice, Darling, Venice.
Mabel was excited about a new business venture:
Her: There's a lot of money on the floor.
Me: On the floor?
Her: On the table!
About 11km west of Edmonton, Alberta is a small city of 24,000 called Spruce Grove, which we have been through many times while we resided in Canada.
But then Mabel informed me that one of our friends had relocated there:
Her: He doesn't live in Edmonton anymore; he has moved to Spruce Groove.
Me: [laughing] Oh, that one's classic!
We were heading out to see Dark Shadows and Mabel was updating her Facebook page with the details.
Her: Is that with Johnny D-E-E-P?
Me: Depp, sweety. D-E-P-P. Johnny Deep sounds like a porn-star name.
While discussing a movie we'd just seen I made reference to the quality of acting, upon which Mabel added:
That's why I like the movie The Speechless King.
While walking down the road to our village Mabel noticed a vehicle coming toward us.
Oh look, it's a Bummer! [pause] Is it Bummer? No, Hummer!
As we were getting ready to leave the house Mabel looked through the window and began rushing around, searching.
Where are my sunglasses? Because it's suntanny out!
We were in a mall department store searching various undergarment shops as Mabel was looking for a more comfortable sports bra.
After considering the options at Calvin Klein, Embry Form, Sloggi, Triumph and Wacoal, she'd made up her mind:
Let's go back to Embryo Form.
Mabel wanted lighter frames as her current glasses are too heavy, so every now and then we would pop into an optical shop to look for a suitable style.
One afternoon we were near a shop I'd noticed but hadn't yet visited, and Mabel remembered I'd mentioned it:
Let's go to the eye store!