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Au So
by Alan Pinkett

As Lord Over continued his speech, the audience’s initial polite attention died. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, attention buried.

Then, just as the vacuum was about to be filled by those still awake chatting to each other, he stopped. Keep it short, his wife said, and he did.

Had to, she’d written it.

An insomniac steward clapped manically to wake up the rest before full narcolepsy set in.

As the buzz of conversation gradually arose, Weeble got talking to the man on his left at the dining table.

It turned out that he was an academic - Dr. Toll U So, Professor of Hindsight in a Deja Vu Department.

Part of a joint faculty with the School of Hard Knocks at the University of Life.

Weeble wasn’t quite sure whether Toll U So was a Chinese name. It sounded vaguely Vietnamese and he wasn’t sure which way round they had their names.

He had been caught out with oriental names many years before when Chinese immigration into Britain was leading to their restaurants being set up all over the country. He had been interviewing a doctor to take charge of his pioneering Chinese Burn Centre just off Harley Street.

Well… off the adjacent A40.

Well… East Acton, to be precise.

Five miles just off Harley Street.

Dr. Au So had been the man’s name.

Weeble had noticed an advert in the local paper the previous day in which a couple announced the birth of a son with the provisional name of Little So-and-So. He had joked with Dr. Au So that it took two So’s to make a So-and-So.

But he had been met with a blank look. He hadn’t known that Chinese names were the other way round, with the family name first. That he was talking to Dr. Au.

Weeble had met this again a few years later when working in Hong Kong while it was still a British colony. He had been fascinated at how the Chinese appeared to mesh with the British. Many of them had adopted British first names and put them in front of their family names.

To give names like John Ting Tiddle-I-Po.

Fanny Yum-yum, Willy Ping So.

Wat Luk.

Charmaine Mao Tse-Tung.

And some of the combined names had become famous over the years. Names like Suzie Wong.

Bruce Lee, Christopher Lee, Gypsy Rose Lee.

Some threesome…

Jackie Chan and Charlie Chan.

Lovely couple…

Paddy O’Rice.

Paddy O’Rice! Where the hell’s that in the Hong Kong telephone directory?


As Weeble gradually discovered just how boring talking to a Professor of Hindsight could be, his attention started to drift…



Au Yau, Chau?

Yin… Yang… Yau, Li?

Lo. So Lo.

Wi Lo?... Yan?


Yu Woo Yan?

Yip. Koo Koo, Woo Woo.

An No Luk. Yan Shun Yu?

Shun Shun: "Lee Me, Ko."

Lam Pau! Au!


So Yu Lo, Mao Hung Lo.

Lo, Me So Lo.

Me Chiu Yu. Me Chiu Yu. Soon Ho Ho.

Ho Ho?

Ho, Ho. Ho, Ho. Yo, Ho, Ho.

Yim Yim. Ho Ho.

So… Yan No Ni.

Yan No Ni.

Yan No Fung.

Yan No Fung.

Fu To Yan.

Fu To Yan!

An Li Gu SoLo.

Li Gu SoLo. Li So Gu!

Yim Yim Li?

Yim Yim Li. Yim Yimminee!

So… Ho Ho?

Ho Ho. Ho Ho. Ying Tong Tiddle I Po!

Ah… So… Chinny Ching Ching.