An oddly large number of emails on my “Vocabulary Stretch” blog post. Funny what gets people`s attention.
Reader A: Have you considered that 便覽 might be better ─ or at least more puzzlingly ─ translated as “enchiridion”?
Me: Ah, Sir, you will not out-vocab me in this zone. “…fourteenth-century illuminated manuscripts, psalters, triodions, mineias and meaneons, heirmologions and tetraevangelions, sticherarions, octoechoes in neumes…” (Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream, pp. 62-3)
Reader B (referring to the Chinese furniture sold as “n****r brown”): Wouldn`t it have warmed your heart if instead of telling us that:
The AP story said the consumer is seeking compensation and has filed a report with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
it had said:
The AP story said the consumer accepted the company`s apology and laughed off the incident.
Me: What, Sir, would you deny the lady her Rosa Parks moment? For shame! How shall we ever make progress towards racial harmony with mean-spirited attitudes like yours?
Reader C: Is Ding Dong a possible Chinese name?
Me: Certainly. Ding is a low-frequency Chinese surname (surname first in Chinese, remember). There was a famous 20th-century writer named (well, pen-named) Ding Ling ─ she gets a good write-up in Jonathan Spence`s The Gate of Heavenly Peace. Dong is a common syllable, often used in given names. The “tung” in “Mao Tse-tung” is a Dong in the new spelling. Statistically there must surely be Ding Dongs in China, though I have never met one.
Though it`s probably outside the bounds of Political Correctness nowadays ─ what isn`t? ─ there is much innocent hilarity in Chinese names. The Hong Kong telephone book ca. 1972 was printed up for both Chinese and Western readers: the latter version listed many subscribers with the name Shit. I am told they have since been . . . purged.
(The New York and London telephone books contain many Shits too, no doubt; but they conceal themselves behind pseudonyms.)