Monday, August 2, 2010

News from the other side of the country.

A guest post from my son. Mike is in the Air Force training to be an airborn linguist. The Air Force has chosen to teach him Chinese. Please continue to come back and read my drivel after you feast on this incredible writing.
Hi everyone, this is the older of the two sons -- Mike, if you like, or Chen Hao if you speak Chinese.  You might be wondering (and I wouldn't blame you) why I've hijacked my mother's blog.  Well, I'm glad you asked (...sorta :D)!

Most of the time, the way someone gets a name is by being born to parents who like them enough to give them a name.  Some people's parents, like my parents, give them good names.  I was named after a guy who, for lack of a nicer way to put it, has Caustic Personality Disorder.  I can also say with confidence that he's also the most brilliant Bible teacher on the planet -- it's one of those Great Unexplained Mysteries that this guy is so hamstrung by his own personality.  Some people's parents apparently didn't like them very much, and end up with names like "A. Blinkin."  

I digress.

The name Michael has an older meaning, however, than the Old Man in Tennessee -- Michael is the name of the archangel of war.  He is the leader of the armies of Heaven, a glorious and powerful being whose purpose is to destroy the enemies of God.

I like that.  I hope I can live up to the name.

My dad gave me a strong name, because he hoped that I would grow to be as strong as the name he gave.  Usually, that's how it works; and exceptional men name their sons for what they will train those sons to be.  But now I find myself in a bit of an odd position.  See, I'm learning Chinese, and my dad wants me to name him.  I could be a real jerk about it and name him something like "Man Who Sets Pants On Fire," but that wouldn't be very nice :D  Besides, he would eventually find out, and there aren't nearly enough continents between us for me to risk that :D  Maybe if he had to come past North America, the Pacific, the Chinese and the Taliban...nah.  They wouldn't stand a chance.


English names carry a meaning, but those meanings are usually lost in countless years of forgetfulness.  Once upon a time, people knew that Edward meant "godly", and that Gabriel was the emissary of God, the announcer of God's glorious will.  The Chinese culture has been more or less exactly the same as it is now, for the last five thousand years.  It is the oldest continuous civilization that I know of, with the possible exception of the Jews.  I don't count them as the oldest, because the Jews have been conquered and scattered too many times to think of them as a continuous civilization.  The reason that this ancient culture is important, is that the Chinese still know what the meaning of their names actually is.

Wang, for example, means "King."  Wang Dazhong, if you can believe it, means King David.  Apparently, King David was such a great king in his day, that even the geographically isolated (and rigidly isolationist) Chinese took note.  If you look deeper into the characters, you notice something even more interesting: The characters can also be translated as "King of the Middle Kingdom."  Meaning that the Chinese probably thought of him as the king of the entire Middle East.

That's pretty cool.  But I digress again.

So what should I name my dad?  Most people don't get to do this, and I want to pick a name that fits him.  So I picked this name:  Xiong Zhishide*.  At this point, I'm relying on a dictionary to tell me that I'm right about what this means, so this name is subject to revision :D  But here's what the dictionary says that means (and I'll draw the characters once I get my hands on the technology):

Xiong:  A bear, like the animal.
Zhishide: One who is wise.

The significance of the bear is pretty straightforward -- if you've ever seen my dad when he's protecting something he loves, he's a flat-out force of nature.  A full-grown grizzly could crush the skull of a bison with a single swat; and when I think of my dad, that's the kind of strength I think of.  I also know this about bears: They are the predatory kings of North America.  And I couldn't very well name my dad after a lion or a tiger -- they're cats, and he hates cats.

The second word, Zhishide, is also fairly self-explanatory.  I am reminded of a Mark Twain quote (or at least a quote that was attributed to him :D): 

"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

I think many boys think this, growing up.  They, like I did, lose too much time thinking their dads are idiots.  But sooner or later, the reality clubs you in the head with the undeniable fact that your dad is smarter and more experienced than you are, and all you have is your good looks -- which don't last anyway.  So I named my dad "wise."  Because he is, and (as long as I have known him) has been, more wise than me.

So there ya go, Dad.  I hope you like your name, because I did my best to make it fit you.

Be thankful, especially for your dads,


*PS:  The pronunciation of this, as best I can describe it in English print, is "Shiong Jersherde."  That's not quite it, and my teachers will kill me for writing it like that, but I could use the extra homework anyway :D

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