• Posts
  • RSS
  • ◂◂RSS
  • Contact

  • N-Jie

    December 15th, 2013
    ling, family, chinese  [html]
    Growing up my great-aunt was sometimes "Izzy," sometimes "Irjya". This seemed normal, and I thought "Izzy" was short for "Irjya," like "Chuck" for "Charles" and other non-obvious diminutives. Her older sister was both "Addy" and "Dajya," and my great grandmother was just "Majya". I didn't really wonder why no one else had names like this, or why they all sounded similar.

    Over time I learned another set of names for them: Isabel, Adelaide, Mary. It could have seemed strange to me that they would have multiple conflicting full names, but it never really registered. Even later, though, studying Chinese I encountered "dajie" (大姐) and "erjie" (二姐) as "oldest sister" and "second oldest sister". My grandmother, the youngest of three sisters growing up in China, had used these names for her sisters and, as hers was the last generation in my family to have any Chinese, the names fossilized and lost their positional interpretations. [1]

    The extreme for this kind of preservation might be Kromanti, a ritual language of the Jamaican Maroons. At certain times, when an ancestor posesses a member of the community, they speak in a language appropriate for their era. The earliest ancestors, born in Africa, speak various lines composed of fixed phrases of a language which turns out to be a form of Akan, a West African language. (more)

    While a few names is not nearly as interesting as a whole chunk of a language, it's neat to see this process in action in the speech of my own family.


    [1] But why "Majie" (媽姐)? Asking my grandmother, she and her sisters made it up as a nickname, meaning something like mother-sister. Though apparently it also means something like "maidservant," and as a fluent Chinese speaker she would have known this, so I'm not sure what to make of it.

    Comment via: google plus, facebook

    Recent posts on blogs I like:

    The Limit of Circles in the Suburbs

    In dense urban cores, it’s valuable to run circular rail lines. They connect dense near-center neighborhoods to one another without going through the more congested center, and help make transferring between parallel lines more efficient, again through av…

    via Pedestrian Observations September 6, 2020

    Collections: Bread, How Did They Make It? Addendum: Rice!

    As an addendum on to our four-part look at the general structures of the farming of cereal grains (I, II, III, IV) this post is going to briefly discuss some of the key ways that the structures of rice farming differ from the structures of wheat and barle…

    via A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry September 4, 2020

    Notes on “Anthropology of Childhood” by David Lancy

    I read David Lancy’s “The Anthropology of Childhood: Cherubs, Chattel, and Changelings” and highlighted some passages. A lot of passages, it turns out. [content note: discussion of abortion and infanticide, including infanticide of children with disabilit…

    via The whole sky August 27, 2020

    more     (via openring)


  • Posts
  • RSS
  • ◂◂RSS
  • Contact