etymology, Uncategorized

PPFF #166: names, again

Good morning,

I often hear people complain. Complaining about ‘other people’. And recently I heard someone quite subtly and passive-aggressively grumble about Chinese people and ‘their’ practice of adopting ‘English’ names. They sounded almost offended by what is basically a lazy attempt at ‘cultural assimilation’ through ‘nominal appropriation’ – such that it caught my attention. But it also made me wonder, ‘English names’? What are English names? John? Kimberly? Peter? Kevin? I had to google for hours to no avail; at least as far as the origins of these common English names are concerned, I couldn’t find an English name. Not one. It turns out, a lot of the names we give to children in the UK are either Celtic or Hebrew in origin (I don’t know the respective percentage).

Take John for example, a very common English name but really how English is it, when you consider that it is an anglicised Hebrew name originally transliterated into Greek and then Latin Ioannes, meaning “Yahweh is Gracious”. Peter? Peter It’s from the Greek word ‘petros’ meaning stone/rock, a direct translation of ‘cephas’ or ‘keppa’, an Aramaic word meaning the same. Kevin? That’s just a failed attempt to pronounce and spell a common Irish name ‘Caoimhín’, by the English.

Long story short, if a Jewish singer can change his German name (Zimmerman) to a distinctly Welsh-sounding name (Dylan), and get away with it, I’d say, leave them Chinese people alone.

Have an open-minded Friday.




China, Uncategorized

PPFF #142: Friends

Good morning,

I was listening to this podcast about China and this Chinese lecturer said that China (or Song Dynasty) was so civilised back in the days that they invented gunpowder not to kill the Mongol invaders but to scare their cavalrymen’s horses. Being fascinated (and gullible) I believed him; it sounded so pleasantly pacifist that I really wanted it to be true, so I googled to confirm the veracity of this claim, to no avail and some frustration that it led to ‘Bing’ing (yup, that’s a thing – I Bing’ed – Note to Google: people Bing now when you fail to return the results they expect to see) In any case, that didn’t work either. At first I had no reason to doubt the lecturer; of course, China, ‘the’ peace-loving nation of East Asia – of course, they invented gunpowder as an audio-visual scare tactical device never meant to hurt or kill anyone, not designed to be a deadly weapon, similar to the way North Korea keeps making those nuclear warheads not as weapons of mass destruction but as a visual aid/theatrical device for televised spectacles. Or not. One thing I am sure about is that after this, I’ve grown dubious about the quality of education and information disseminated at London School of Economics.

That fascination was short-lived and I devastatingly disappointed. However, not all was lost, because I ended up learning about the Mongols. But who cares about them. Not I. So instead I conjured up another topic; friendship.

Two weeks ago, I verbally agreed to go on a short excursion with friends/acquaintances and added that this would move us on forward, to the next stage of friendship; Level 3. We chuckled at its arbitrary numerical order as it wasn’t really preceded by 2 or 1. But after the Chinese lecturer’s disappointing ‘gunpowder plot’, recalling this episode prompted an enquiry about friendship stages/levels/mechanisms. How does one become another’s friend?

Amongst the online articles I’ve come across, this one best articulates what we already intuitively know. In summary, friendship begins with common interests, followed by self-disclosure, reciprocity of self-disclosure, creating mutual vulnerability to social costs, mutual supportiveness of identity and self-esteem, and repeat. Basically there’s almost nothing that makes friends faster than telling someone that you’ve done something socially unacceptable (but hopefully not illegal) e.g. telling a prospective friend that you’re an hermaphrodite could fast-track that friendship, if you really are one, that is. But it has to be matched somehow; reciprocity is key to making it stick e.g. the other person would have to tell you in this scenario that he/she, say, has been accused of a murder or something similar. Then you have mutually entered into an unbreakable bond(age). Unless the social costs of breaking the reciprocal secrecy of the two facts is completely mis-matched and therefore one can lose much more than the other, it’s a risky move not to be friends. It’s that mutual vulnerability through voluntarily reciprocal self-disclosure that glues friends together, which is then maintained by mutual supportiveness of identity and self-esteem.

So try it this weekend, go out, pick a stranger who looks like they could have something common with yourself, make your bid and tell them something that makes you feel vulnerable preferably something socially unacceptable. If that doesn’t work, and/or you can’t be bothered with all this, you can always buy a Kirobo, Toyota’s robot companion you can have a conversation with. One caveat – it only talks in Japanese for now. So, learn either the art of making friends in your chosen language or learn Japanese.

Have a good Friday