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Introductory Khmer

I was at Sodade last weekend and proprietress, Kim, popped in as I went to grab my medio litro of Mexican Coke. She was wearing a tank top with a gorgeous abugidaic script which led me to, recklessly I now recognize, observe:

“I really love those characters in Thai script”

As she turned I realized that the shirt had the shape of Angkor Wat and realized i had made a bit of a faux pas: Egyptians would get a bit irked if you said the Pyramids were in Saudi; the Hellenes if you thought the Acropolis was in Crete. I hastily apologized realizing I was a Cambodian.

Thus I had a chance to speak to her a bit about Khmer script and how the words hang together. As a take away she taught me how to say “eat”, it’s a tonal sound /ɲam/.

What’s really interesting is this, I read up a bit on Khmer at Wikipedia and apparently it has social registers: different verbs for speaking of / to royalty, monks, commoners, or intimates. “Nyam” is is for the third category.

Can you imagine learning an entire deferential sub-language for four social registers? Very interesting.

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