From Eccentric Flower



One problem we haven't yet discussed (though I alluded to it at the King Fung Garden) is that sometimes a character in a sign shouldn't be taken as its literal meaning ... because it's somebody's name.


I love this picture.

The first character on the sign above is too uncommon to appear in my 3200-character basic dictionary. (This happened perhaps three times in the entire project.) I had to go to the 1912 dictionary to find it. Among other things it means "cup" and "to cherish." But that is not important. What is important is its pronunciation.

No points for guessing that it is "chung."

(The left half of the character - GOLD - cues that this will be a meaning having to do with metal or value. The right half of the character is a pronunciation cue; it is pronounced "chung" as well.)

yuan2a chuan1 cai4 You've seen two of the other characters - GARDEN and VEGETABLE - already. The three-stroke character between them means STREAM or river, but because Si-chuan is literally "Four Rivers," it is a common abbreviation for Sichuan. (Which you have more likely seen spelled as Szechuan.)

Since VEGETABLE here is implying a type of food (in her printed menu there is also a fifth character, RESTAURANT - remember the Peach Farm), you might read this as "Chung's Garden - Sichuan Cuisine."

- - -


Or ... you might not.

A test reader suggests that the sign may have multiple meanings, illustrating the point I made at the top of the page: The second and third characters (GARDEN STREAM) could be Ms. Chung's given name. (Her name would appear last name first, as is the Chinese way.) He notes that "Meadowbrook" - Yuan-Chuan - is not an unlikely given name for a Chinese girl.

I'm pretty sure that the "stream" character here cues for Sichuan, but that doesn't necessarily rule out the ambiguity. For ages I wondered if it were possible that Ms. Chung's real first name could be Yuan (garden, park, meadow, etc.) ... leaving "stream" to mean Sichuan. I have no idea what's considered an acceptable female name in China; every single Chinese person I know of, except dear old Ming Tsai, has picked an English first name for themselves (as has Ms. Chung, surely - I don't believe she was born in this country).

(And I think Mr. Tsai WAS, which means either his parents were traditionalists or he changed his name to something more traditionally Chinese because he liked it. I dunno. The rest of this is tricky enough without talking names, which in China are a whole topic of their own.)

I'd ask Ms. Chung for the real story, but her English is, as I recall, not very good and I'm not sure I'd be able to communicate the question.


Personal tools
eccentric flower