In my last blog, I wrote about how some people have the inability to accept a true fact, even when it has been repeatably stated, presented and shown to them on a number of occasions, to be just that.
As it turned out there was an old English word that means just that; an incorrect view of something one refuses to let go of; mumpsimus.
Unfortunately this word has long since gone out of common use, and I would like to hazard a guess why. That is if we were to go back to a time when adequate medical health care for the terminally ill, the sick, those that had been involved in disabling accidents and/or been horrifically maimed and were suffering, was simply not available. And in those times when there was a far higher mortality rate than today, and when most had a far greater number of relatives and were therefore subject to far more bereavements.
People in earlier times were forced to accept unpleasant facts of life on an all too regular basis and consequently became emotionally and mentally armoured to do so.
Although there were obviously some exceptions to the rule or the word 'mumpsimus' would not have existed nor have ever had a use.
As a Middle Ages' comparative narrative, I would like to suggest something along the lines of: 'I never knew my father as he was killed in the 100 Years War, and my poor mother has just died of the plague. As well as, we've to physically carry my older brother everywhere as he was crippled after falling from a tree as a boy. Further, because I'm the eldest daughter, I'm now also responsible for my two younger siblings, though I'm still only twelve. And you cannot even accept what your sailor friends keep telling you about the world being round. Mumpsimus!'
Advance 600 odd years or more to the days of COVID 19, and many of us have found that we have had to deal with a lot of unavoidable issues and unpleasantries. And by at least some accounts, things are only going to get worse. (Although, I most sincerely hope not for all our sakes.) If this is the way, I feel relatively optimistic that if needs must, then the word mumpsimus might just get a late revival.
All that aside, I thought it was only fair to write about the mumpsimus I have mostly encountered from any number of Thai people, over the past eighteen years or so. Similarly, listed below in any order are my own particular favourites that I can recall.
'Farang men only like Thai women with black skin.' Presumedly, meaning those native females who are dark-skinned.
If they meet an adult Thai female who they find attractive and she is consenting, I doubt whether the majority of single heterosexual foreigner men care much what tone a woman's epidermis is. As for believing that every Caucasian male has the same preference, you might call that racism, but I couldn't possibly comment.
'Farangs are rich.'
This one I think is self-explanatory, as even if you yourself are fortunate enough to be loaded, you must surely be aware of some other foreign people who are not altogether financially well-heeled, so to speak.
'We don't know any foreign food.'
When I ask my students to do an activity about food but excluding Thai food; this is the usual response. Then on second thoughts 'Oh, hamburger; K - F - C.' And if they think a bit harder, 'French frie'.
Next, I like to convey to my students that hamburgers like sausages are German food, but that hamburgers were made globally popular by the USA. And that the Sizzler restaurants are an American concept and not Thai. They are normally left slightly perplex by these revelations. Then I write, 'ham cheese sandwich' on the board and tell them they're English food. You can almost see the cogs grinding in their heads because it has never occurred to them before that 'ham sheese' sandwiches could be anything but Thai.
Actually, you should not find this too surprising as many of the so-called Thai dishes actually derive from China.
Back in 2002 - 2003, when there were only a fraction of the 7-11's there are now, they introduced the general populace to something new, a cheese and ham sandwich. And like most new and radical ideas it was initially taken on or eaten only by young people. Therefore, when my teenage students saw their old (middle-aged) teacher eating one, their reaction was along the lines of 'Teacher try be young.' Believe it or not, 7-11 cheese and ham sandwiches were really trendy at that time, so we can understand to some extent why the natives feel that they are Thai food.
'All the 'working girls' come from Issarn' (Northeastern Thailand).
Well, all I can say is, it must be the most multicultural region of the country as not only are there any number other Asians from other countries, there are also a variety of Europeans and Africans. And not only those from the other five regions but most controversially because they are generally seen as the bourgeois of Thailand - Bangkokians of mixed Thai-Chinese origins. (However, this is only what a friend of a friend told me and what I have gathered from walking by such establishments where these ladies work, whilst casually peering through the windows and doors on my way by to teach at one school or another over the years.)
Foreign teachers earn a big salary.
This one has been known to bring a tear to my eye. The average foreign teacher's contract in Thailand is only 9.5 months in length and doesn't pay a thousand pounds a month, even at today's exchange rates. Whereas, by the time they are in their fifties the average Thai teacher shall be earning at least 25% more salary than their foreign counterpart, not only, but also on a 12-month contract, whilst looking forward to a pension of 40,000 baht a month to kick in the year they reach sixty.
No foreigner can speak Thai.
Yep, nearly all Thai nationals accept that we can 'S-peak Thai a little bit,' but only a small minority believe it is even a possibility that anyone but a native Thai could ever become anywhere near fluent. Curiously, most Thai people are under a similar misconception to the Germans relating to the Enigma code in WW2, that only they will ever be able to decipher it.
Prior to the lock down, on a weekly basis Thai people; students, work colleagues, staff and fellow customers in shops, would talk about me, while I was standing not more than two yards away, confident in the belief that I could not understand a single word that they were saying.
Foreigners cannot eat spicy food, and only Thai food is spicy.
Well, again, I don't know why some of those born in the Big Mango and other provinces feel that they have this ability and we don't. Although, it has always been something that a group of locals take amusement in, somehow relishing the very thought of us poor foreigners with our tongues burning whilst smoke plumes out of our ears. Either that or enjoying the thought of the fear that Thai spicy food instills in all foreigners.
Never, really been a hot spicy Indian, Mexican, or hot spicy any kind of food person, still for a change on occasion I like to try a spicy dish. Where on, any Thai person there present, server, work colleague, family member, a complete stranger sitting on another table, will state a big red verbal warning that this dish is spicy. And it is heavily inferred that it would be better for me to reconsider my choice, 'That's spicy!' and 'Think about your stomach' or a rhetorical 'Do you think you can!''
Mumpsimus is a good old fashion word that few people would take offence to, and I for one am hoping it will make a comeback.