International Letters

An infected eye prompted a call to my eye doctor in Singapore, Dr. Heng. Although Singapore was once governed by the British, and most everyone is a native English speaker, they don't speak the same English we Americans do; they don't even speak English the way the English do. Singaporean English sounds like that of a non-native speaking Asian person--it is cloaked in a heavy accent. So, communicating with people in Singapore is sometimes a challenge. It can be especially challenging when trying to convey character-sensitive information as Dr. Heng's assistant was trying to do this morning. Dr. Heng had given her the name of 2 eye medications I should suggest my doctor in Jakarta prescribe for my eye infection. Her method for insuring that I wrote the letters correctly was a twist on the familiar radio method--Alpha Bravo Tango--a uniquely International twist that worked beautifully while tickling my funny bone and highlighting our increasingly smaller world. "Can you spell those medications for me?" I asked.        "Yes," she said. "B-Burma, L-London, E-Europe, P-Philippines, H-Holland, A-Australia, G-Greece..."

I chuckled and commented on how much I liked her way of spelling. There was a long, puzzled pause. Finally, she said, "Yes, it works."        Dr. Heng's Assistant spelled out two other medications in the same way, using India for I, Thailand for T, Pakistan for P...she finished spelling the medication with " Xylophone for X."          Surely some city or country name begins with the letter X?         Alex Trebek where are you?