[FoRK] What's in a name?

HK Pang hkpang at gmail.com
Tue Mar 29 12:11:23 PDT 2011

Yeah, kanji/Chinese is pretty fun to read/write. Mega-homonyms
actually make it easy to find words that rhymn, good for poetry/lyrics
But homonymns in day to day life create lots of ambiguities. Korea,
for example, has always try to get rid of the kanji system. But if
they do that, they will have a very hard time identifying names and

The other day,I was at a Cantonese restaurant and the waitress
(apparently not very fluent in Cantonese) told me the special of the
day was 'night flavored chicken'. I asked for clarification and she
repeated the same thing but explained what it was. Then I realized she
was trying to say "coconut flavored chicken'. She probably didn't know
'night flavor' was a popular euphemism for 'human feces'. In
Cantonese, both 'night' and 'coconut' sounds similar but a native
speaker can easily differentiate.

On Tue, Mar 29, 2011 at 2:47 PM, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
> On 3/29/11 10:55 AM, HK Pang wrote:
>> Language translation can be very funny. Take 'America', for example,
>> is formally written as 'beautiful country' in Chinese. Sometimes,
>> people write it as 'rice country' because in Chinese slang, rice means
>> wealthy. After 9-11/Iraq/2008, people like to write it as 'bad-luck
>> country'. In Chinese, 'beautiful', 'rice' and 'bad-luck' are all
>> single-sound words that pronounced more or less the same.
> Funny.  I've taken (very meager, and mostly already faded) steps to learn a
> bit of Japanese and Chinese.  (At this point, I can recognize "pull" on
> doors in Japan...  (Hint: it is the Kanji that includes the radical for
> 'bow', i.e. 'pull'.))  I decided right up front that I'm only interested
> very much in reading and writing.  Mega-homonyms doesn't seem like fun.
>  Just a few months ago I was reading an Italian dissertation to get some
> techniques (the dregs of Latin, French, and German from 30 years ago plus
> the fairly unambiguously recognizable technical terms made it much easier
> than it sounds).
> sdw
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