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Dropping anchor in Cambodia

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Noah Lederman confuses two brews.

Someone in the Cambodian beer industry made a big mistake. There are a few major labels in the country, but the biggest name in Khmer beer is Angkor, which the Cambodians pronounce like the English word for the metal object that keeps boats from drifting away: anchor.

One of Angkor Beer’s rivals is, bafflingly enough, Anchor Beer. But the Cambodians don’t use the hard k sound typical of English-speakers pronouncing the word “anchor.” The sound Cambodians use for the two middle letters of Anchor begins words like “cheers” or “chug,” which is a big problem for a beer company that features a pair of boat anchors on its cans.

On my first day in Cambodia, I sat down at a bar and perused the selection of beers. The two choices were Angkor Beer or Anchor Beer. I decided to drink down the list.

“I’ll have an Angkor,” I said, accentuating each syllable. “Ang. Kor.”

The waitress brought me the red and gold can of Angkor. When I finished the Angkor Beer, I wanted to try the Anchor Beer. I pronounced the word so that the two syllables were anchored together by the hard k.

The waitress returned, however, with an Angkor Beer. “Oh well,” I figured.

She must have misheard or got confused. I drank down the second Angkor.

For beer number three, I wanted to make sure I received an Anchor Beer, so I requested the menu and pointed to the word Anchor.

“One Anchor Beer.”

The waitress looked puzzled.

“Angkor?” she said, pointing to Angkor Beer.

“No. Anchor.”

She looked around for help. There was no one available to save either of us from the confusion.

“An chore,” she said, correcting my pronunciation, making the “ch” sound used in “chapter,” like, “If you pick the wrong name for your company, you will go Chapter 11.”

“An chore,” I said, but that pronunciation is grating to an English teacher. A chore is how it should sound, I thought. The waitress started for the bar.

“You know what?” I called after her. “I’ll have an Angkor Beer.” I pronounced Angkor like the English word “anchor,” ready to deal with the consequences.

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