Monday, August 05, 2002

A few years ago, the company I worked for won a contract to publish a directory of environmental equipment suppliers in Thailand. [Oh, the glamour!] The book was to be bilingual, so we had we had the copy translated into Thai. We installed a Thai font and I did the layouts in Quark, but we soon encountered a problem. The Thai language has incredibly long words, and there wasn't a Thai hyphenation extension for Quark. If we simply allowed Quark to hyphenate words wherever it thought best, it could change the whole meaning of the sentence.

I had a brainwave: we'd get a Thai person in to sit at the computer and break the text manually. But how to go about finding someone? We didn't have the budget for a proper, qualified translator, so we simply phoned our local Thai restaurant. I spoke to a young man called Ad, who said he would come in the following Monday morning.

That Monday, reception called me: "Er, David, there's a - um - a - er. Ad is here to see you." On arriving in reception, I could see why they were flustered. Ad was a stunning, tall, Thai woman, heavily made-up, clad head-to-toe in skin-tight black lycra, statuesque in knee-length boots. Ad also had a man's voice.

I sat Ad at the computer and let her - him? - get on with it. Word soon got around. During the course of the morning, every single person in our company found an excuse to come and visit me, peering at Ad. Gossip flew around the water-cooler. "Is it a man or a woman?" "Woman, surely?" "But have you seen the size of her hands?" "And I'm sure she's wearing a polo neck to cover up her - his - Adam's apple."

We never did find out what sex Ad was. Well, I was hardly going to ask directly. My own opinion? We had hired a real Ladyboy of Bangkok.

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