Saturday, December 09, 2006

Much Ado About Names!!

When I decided to take up French in Canada, little did I realise it would be such a difficult language. I was almost in tears during the first few lessons as I could not make out the language. All I could hear was beautiful rythmn that sounded like music to my ears. Such is the beauty of language! There is so much music in languages especially Mandarin, French and Swahili. Hence you can understand why I am extra sensitive to words and names.

When I received the program sheet from the Vice-President of Buona Vista Club where I was the General Evaluator, I was excited when I saw the name, "Lim Da Jie". "Wow! What a sisterly club, as Da Jie means big sister in Mandarin and immediately I knew I would feel very comfortable at the Buona Vista Club. I was surprised when I found out that Lim Da Jie is a gentleman! Nevertheless, the Buona Vista Club turned out to be fraternal as the male members of the club were very brotherly and caring... they came early to help set up the meeting and showed good leadership.

I just received an email from my ex-customer at Rialto and she sent me an article about a town called "Fucking" in Austria.! I had visited Salzburg when I visited Europe during the summer holidays while I was studying in Canada. Like the Americans and the Germans, I was more excited about being on the grounds where the Sound of Music was filmed. I was also excited about visiting the house in which my favourite composer, Mozart, had lived. I did not know about a town called Fucking and hence was quite amused when I received the email. Gosh! What a name for such a beautiful town which has beautiful and magnificent lakes, mountains and forests!

As someone who loves the English Language, I am very particular about names of people, roads and places. I remember when I was shown two flats on Dover Road and Telok Blangah Heights, I chose the one on Dover Road, as the name Dover sounds nicer!
I don't like some of our road names like Ah Hood Road (Hood is Hokkien dialect for testes) and Lim Tua Tow Road (Tua Tow is big head in Hokkien). Yet, these road names pale in comparison to Fucking Town. Can you imagine if someone asks you, "Which town do you live in Austria?" "Fucking". The person may be taken aback, thinking you are scolding him in vulgar language!

Again, I guess, Fucking Town pales in comparison with this name. My eldest sister told me that one Malay lady had a very difficult childbirth. She was so angry for having such a painful time during her delivery that she named her offspring, "Cheebai"! (Cheebai is the Hokkien word for vagina). The poor little girl grew up, and was the butt of everybody's jokes! One day, someone snatched her gold necklace. She made a police report, and when the policeman asked her for her name, she looked down and took a long time to answer. She gave the policeman her identity card. Only then did the policeman understand her embarrassment. Can you imagaine if someone were to ask her for her name and she replied, "Cheebai", the person will wonder why she uses vulgar language in response!!!
Fortunately, the kind policeman, who understands the law, advised her to change her name. I wonder why none of her school teachers advised her to do the same. It would have spared her so many years of unecessary embarrassment.!

Parents, please take time to think of beautiful names for your babies. Names are very important. I take my hats off to this gentleman in my village. He was a government officer while his wife was a simple, illiterate lady who baked cakes for a living. They had five daughters and they would leave their youngest daughter with my neighbour to look after during the day. I remember hearing the lady complaining,
"This crazy husband of mine. Five daughers...Chinese mah.... just call them Ah Lian, Ah Hua, Ah Bee, can already.... but must yaya papaya call them Lucy, Daisy, Jessy, Ho si boh ho sih!" (Ho si boh ho sih is Hokkien meaning easy to die, and not easy to die - she said it just to rhyme with Lucy, Daisy and Jessy).!

I also remember this sad incident when someone brought a friend to our cell group.
When we asked her for her name, she just smiled somewhat uncomfortably, and mumbled her name. Later we realised the reason for her discomfort. Her name was "Eow Gwai". (Hokkien dialect for ghost, monster). Later, we advised her to change her name in her identity card. She is now called Grace Tan Xin Ming.

Once again, a reminder to parents. Your children are God-given and beautifully made. Please don't make monsters out of them. Give them beautiful names they would be proud of. This is why we often read in the Bible, how names were carefully chosen and given.

As usual, my siblings and close friends tell me I should move from my current apartment to live on Kay Poh Road (Kay Poh is Hokkien for busybody). Kay Poh Road, here comes Kaypoh Choo...... but hang on.... Kaypo Choo cannot afford to live on Kay Poh Road lah.... all the million dollar apartments on Kay Poh Road near Orchard Road!!! Is Kay Poh Road named after someone called Kay Poh? I must do my research later on. Meanwhile I will continue to live happily as a kaypo, to observe, analyse and write on issues that stir my kaypo heart. :-)

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