This is an edited version of an article by the late Bernardino de Senna Fernandes d'AssumpçãoClick on the SEARCH icon and enter his number (3) to be taken to his personal page , from an unpublished book of anecdotes. I hesitated to include it in this website, in fear that it might cause offence to people who suffer from stuttering, but decided to go ahead because the article does not ridicule but rather sympathises with them. – HA d'Assumpção

In the old days there were no such things as speech therapy or hypnotism to cure stuttering, and there were many who suffered from this handicap. Naturally, they became very self-conscious about it, and some even resentful towards anyone who joked about it.

João stuttered badly from early childhood and was always called "Toot-Toot", a nickname given by his schoolmates.

When he finished school, he joined one of the banks in Hong Kong and, through hard work, was promoted to the small Draft Department of that bank. Joe, a much younger man working in the same department, was also a stutterer. It was Joe's duty to attend to customers; Toot-Toot would occasionally help.

One fine afternoon there appeared at that department an old English missionary, who had just arrived in Hong Kong after a long and rather uncomfortable trip from the interior of China. As luck would have it, he also stuttered, and was extremely sensitive about it. He was tired and irritated by being stared at because he, a European, was wearing a Chinese shirt.

When the missionary came to the counter of this Draft Department, Joe approached him with his usual "Good morning, sir, what can I do for you sir?"

"Well", said the missionary, "I w-want t-to-to cash a da-da-draft".

"Very well sir", said Joe very courteously, "how m-much is it fo-fo-for, sir?"

The missionary assumed that Joe was making fun of him and became so furious that he forgot that he was holding the draft in his left hand. He started to search his inside left coat-pocket where he usually kept his papers, then his right outside pocket, to no avail. It was just as he was going to take out the wallet from his right hip-pocket that young Joe noticed that he was holding the draft in left his hand.

"T-t-there you are, sir". smiled Joe, "you h-h-had it in your h-hand all t-t-the ta-ta-time, sir!"

"Wa-wa-what are you t-t-trying to do-do-do to-to-to me?" shouted the missionary angrily. "Are your m-m-making f-f-f-un of-of-of me?"

"No, sir", said poor Joe in a pained voice and becoming flustered. "I am only teh-teh-trying to-to-to h-h-help you sir!"

Hearing the raised voices, Toot-Toot hurried to the counter, asking, "W-w-what is the-the ma-ma-matter? Wa-wa-what h-h-h-happened?"

"And you to-to-too!", roared the poor missionary.

"You are m-m-mistaken, sir", began Toot-Toot.

"W-w-what keh-keh-kind of a b-b-b-bank is the-the-this!" bellowed the missionary, all his self-control gone. "H-how d-d-dare you sp-sp-speak t-t-to your cus-cus-customers like this!"

"As I s-s-s-said, sir", Toot-Toot began to explain again, "w-w-we are bo-bo-both....."

"I w-w-want to-to-to see your ma-ma-manager!" yelled the missionary.

The commotion reached the ears of the English supervisor of that department who rushed over to see what the row was about.

Toot-Toot tried to explain, "Mr. Jones, this gent-gent-gentleman t-t-thinks that w-w-we are pok-pok-poking f-f-fun at h-h-him, sir. I d-don't know why, sir!"

The missionary interrupted Toot-Toot and, grabbing the supervisor's arm, shouted angrily, "The-these two rasc-ca-cals h-h-have be-be-been pok-po-poking f-f-fun at m-m-me. I will not to-to-tolerate it!"

The supervisor realized immediately what had gone wrong: his two famous stuttering clerks had, at long last, come across another of their kind. So he too tried to explain to the angry missionary, "Sir, it w-w-was all a mis-mis-mistake", he began. "Damn it, I am stuttering too!" he exclaimed and, linking his arm to that of the missionary, led the old man to his desk. Once the situation had been explained, the missionary calmed down and was man enough to walk over to Toot-Toot and then to Joe, to tender his apologies for his hasty temper and outburst.

From that day on, our missionary always contacted either Toot-Toot or Joe whenever he had any business with this bank, whether or not for anything to do with the Draft Department. Perhaps he felt that, with Toot-Toot or Joe by his side, he would never undergo such an unpleasant experience again.