Just a slip of the tongue?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 July, 2006, 12:00am


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While being grilled in the Legislative Council this week, HSBC executive director Peter Wong Tung-shun, perhaps inadvertently, referred to the august chamber as 'the garbage council'.

You see, Cantonese is such a finely tonal dialect that a slight change in tone could turn a polite phrase into something insulting, so lap fat kuk, as in Legco, can easily be mispronounced as lap sap kuk, 'the council of garbage'.

Mr Wong was apparently angered at suggestions that leading banks were putting profit before social responsibility by drastically reducing the number of branches. 'Hong Kong is a free market society. Do banks have to conduct public opinion polls and consult lap sap kuk before shutting down branches?' he asked.

He was quickly reminded by Frontier legislator Emily Lau Wai-hing that he was in a chamber that produces laws rather than garbage. Well, whether or not it was a Freudian slip, we are sure it was indicative of the high esteem Mr Wong holds for our noble lawmakers and their chamber.