Although the Central Market still carries its preserved history of layered signs (see Chapter 7) suggesting a range of owners and workers, it is now in the heart of Sydney’s Chinatown. When the young Uncle Tony started work there in 1938 at the age of 16, he was a minority among the Irish, Italians, Maltese and others, but now it is varieties of Chinese that dominate the fruit and vegetable market. Just as a cursory glance at a section of a fruit and vegetable stall might suggest only ‘apples’ or ‘potatoes’ while a more careful exploration reveals much greater variety (Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Fuji, Golden Delicious; Charlotte, Desiree, King Edward, Nicola, Romano), so this Chinese market is also a place of great diversity. It was in conversation with two young men of Indonesian background who were husking corn over a large bin that the situation was perhaps best explained. When asked what languages are used in the market, the response was ‘乜language都有㗎!’ (all kinds of languages are spoken here!). The conversation continued in Cantonese.

Excerpt 8.1 (R: Researcher, C: Corn husker)

Chinese: (Cantonese) characters (translations in brackets)

R: 係呀! 咁你自己呢? (Really! What about yourself?)

C: 我呀? 我又福建話, 又印尼話, 又客家話.

(Me? I speak Hokkien, Indonesian and Hakka.)

R: 咁勁! (Oh wow!)

C: 乜都有, 撈埋一齊. (all sorts of languages mixed together.)