Tag Archives: Chinese characters

Name Game


Be prepared for another rambling post.  It’s a mystery where the post will end up.  Let’s start……

Here is my Chinese name ………

chi leongMy very wise parents chose this name for me and I am often told either that the name suits me or that I have lived up to the name given me.  It is pronounced “ci liang” and means “kind and good”.

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to be named “rich and famous” but I  guess that is not a bad thing to have a name like “kind and good”.

One has to be careful with Chinese names because characters with similar sounds can mean something totally different.  For example, my brother’s name actually means “kind dragon” (which I think is really cool to be called a ‘dragon’, don’t cha think?).  However, with just a slightly wrong pronunciation and accent, such as might be said by a Westerner with no experience with the Chinese language , then “kind dragon” will suddenly be transformed into “pig sty”.

It is precisely because of all these mispronunciations of my name when I studied in the United Kingdom that I decided to adopt an Anglicized name.

I chose “Calvin”.  I like “Calvin”. However, in retrospect, it was not the wisest of choices.

If you were to look up the meaning of the name “Calvin”, it has only one unfortunate meaning…………”bald”.

BALD!!!!

Oh, yea.  Good choice there squirrel.  Can you imagine a bald squirrel?  No bushy tail?  Not a pretty sight, I think.

Many years ago, I went to Geneva, Switzerland and got to see a statue representing a rather famous “Calvin”……………John Calvin – a key historical figure of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.  The statue is part of a series of Protestant figures in what is called the “Reformation Wall“.

Photo by LGS
Photo by LGS

 

Calvin is the second from the left.  Now, I am not 100% sure, but don’t they all look bald to you?

Apart from being an important church figure, they also named a beer after him called Calvinus Beer.  I tried it.  It’s okay but not great……certainly won’t put hair on your head.

Strangely, there aren’t a lot of famous ‘Calvin”s.   The 30th President of the United States was a ‘Calvin” but he is mostly known for being a bit strange and being a man of few words. The story is told that a matron, seated next to him at a dinner, said to him, “I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you.” He replied, “You lose.”   Another tale relates  that upon learning that Calvin Coolidge had died, Dorothy Parker reportedly remarked, “How can they tell?”

The only other ‘Calvin” that people seem to have in their consciousness is “Calvin and Hobbes”.

A Boy and His Tiger (comics by Bill Watterson)
A Boy and His Tiger (comics by Bill Watterson)

 

Now I don’t mind that association cause Calvin is kinda cool but it gets a little tiresome when people keep asking me “Where’s Hobbes?’

Anyway, what does your name mean and are you happy with it?

Year of the Horse


This is the Year of the Horse!   Now I am a Tiger (yes – that’s right – a tiger squirrel!  I have a picture of just such a creature HERE on this blog).  My year was in 2010 and I think we can say that us Tigers gave you a good year.  You are welcome.

My wife is actually a Snake.  Her kind gave us last year.  It wasn’t a particularly bad sort of year but let’s face it …..it wasn’t a Tiger year.

Now for those who hold stock in traditional Chinese astrology, they say that a Tiger – Snake romantic pairing is not an auspicious one and the relationship will not work well.  Perhaps for that reason, when we were first dating, my wife told me that she was actually a Rabbit.  Sometimes when someone asks about her Chinese astrological sign, she will still say that she is a Rabbit.  To set the record straight, I tell that person that “this Rabbit speaks with forked tongue!”

So this is the Year of the Horse!  Yes, well, I don’t know much about horses but I will gladly share my general ignorance with all of you dear readers.

First, my sister is a Horse.  Enough said.  I dare not say more.  She can kick like a ……

Second, the word for horse in Chinese is “Ma” and is often one of the first words that they teach how to write when you are trying to learn Chinese.  This is probably because it clearly shows the pictographic nature of many Chinese characters.  The earliest character for “Ma” really resembled a picture representation for a horse and it evolved into the present day character. (see below)

Chinese_horse
The evolution of the Chinese character for the word horse. Source: Tan Huay Peng, What’s in a Chinese Character.

Third, I  actually had the privilege of seeing the Przewalski’s horse roaming wild in Mongolia (see post).  The Pzewalski’s Horse is considered the only remaining truly wild horse in the world. Woohoo!  Perhaps an ancestor of the horses I saw was the inspiration or model for that very first Chinese character for “Ma”.

Rubbing It's Behind on the Rough Rock
Rubbing It’s Behind on the Rough Rock (photo by LGS)

Fourth, when I was a wee lad, the only horse I knew was the “Hoss” on TV.  For me , he was the “Hoss”.

"Hoss" Cartwright (the one in front) of TV's Bonanza fame.
“Hoss” Cartwright (the one in front) of TV’s Bonanza fame.

Fifth and final point; lovely button mushrooms (yum yum) are grown on horse dung (not so yum yum) and that’s no bullshit!

And that brings to and end all that I know about horses.  Must go now……head feels ….kinda…….empty…..