Wednesday, October 21, 2020

若望 強 看守者 "The Rectification of Names" (sort of...?)

"The Rectification of Names" (sort of...?)

若望 (John, my proper name in Chinese)

強  (the term "Qiang" means "strong," sounds like "John")

看守者 (the term "Kanshouzhe" means "watchman" - ["Janaro" = "door guard"] )

My Chinese name is "Watchman Strong" (with surname first), but it sounds better to take the shorter term for a surname, result in this name

強  看守者 (Qiang Kanshouzhe)

Add my Christian name at the beginning and I am "John Qiang Kanshouzhe," 若望 強 看守者 ... I don't know if any of this is correct!

若望 強 看守者 "John Qiang Kanshouzhe" (pronounced "Chong Kan-show-je," or something like that?)


So what is the point of all of this linguistic speculation? Not much. One way to begin to understand a language (not just to "translate" but try to perceive its inner genius) is to "play around with it." In relation to the Chinese language, I have the aptitude of a baby. Indeed, I'm a baby who is curious and reckless and who has some very powerful toys.

In the global village, many of us are "babies" in more ways than we know. We are playing around with world, and it would be helpful if there were more "adults" here to guide us and keep us out of trouble. As I've noted before, the "global village" is not a quaint metaphor. It's a kind of paradox with its "enormous proximity." It's a dangerous place, where we must be very careful before we pick quarrels.

This year we have learned that it doesn't take much to paralyze the village. I hope we don't need to be reminded that it would be very easy to burn the whole thing down.

But... getting back to Chinese...

I am aware of the irony of playing around with one of history's oldest languages. But the Internet serves up characters, pronunciation, even images of calligraphy (that's my "name" in Chinese script at the top). I have titled this post (ironically) with an invocation of one of the basic concerns of Confucius: the need to call things by their right names.

In a global multimedia "conversation," this is a great challenge. Imagery is more than ever a "language" of its own: easily manipulated, but also possessed of the capacity to cut through elaborate and entrenched rationalizations and recall human beings to basic truths, and perhaps even present new things.

We must learn to use the language of multimedia wisely. Perhaps the Chinese have something to teach us, with their highly refined pictographic literature. Here, I have tossed around word-characters fed to me by AI translation technology. I was told that 強 means "strong" but I was not told why. Written Chinese is not a language of abstract signs, rules, and grammatical constructions. It is a language of illustrations, that conveys levels of meaning, metaphors, and beauty in a different way.

The illustrations are stylized from centuries of use, but mastering the styles permits one not only to understand but also "to see" basic images associated with the concepts, drawn (at least remotely) from the experience of reality.

As we become less literate in the West (and we are becoming poorer readers and writers, even as we are surrounded by phonetic words), we also are adopting elements of (a still very primitive) pictoral writing. The emoji (😉) is a very long way from the rich, evocative Chinese pictogram. Am I correct in thinking that there is a connection nonetheless?

I don't yet "see" the pictoral construction in 強 (is it an "arm" combined with a "person"?) but I wonder if "💪👤" could develop toward something like this in the future.

An interestic point: verbally diverse Asian languages can be written down using the same pictography. Though they have often developed their own variations, rooted in the Chinese styles.

Now that I have done my usual bit of overthinking, I want to remember again that all this was done "for fun," and it has that value if nothing else. If it all turns out to be foolish, it was only some foolish fun. It ain't nuthin like language theory, ok?😉


Other variations:

ジョン (John, Japanese)

요한  (John, Korean)


Evidence for my "research":