Friday, 5 February 2016

Turning the Tables.

It’s the universally received convention to refer to Europe and the Americas as ‘the west’ and Asia as ‘the east.’ But who decides which part of the big ball we live on should be called the west, and which the east? Is this just a Eurocentric thing?

Let’s suppose that China becomes the next Top Nation, as it probably will. Conventions might become Sinocentric then, and the Chinese might want to change everything around so that they’re the west and we’re the east. Do you realise what that would mean? People from Wigan would become Orientals overnight. All the major Chinese cities would have to create Europetowns and have displays of football hooliganism every year on January 1st. And Europe and America would become a different type of tourist destination:

Have yourself the trip of a lifetime and unearth the mysteries of the Orient:

Take a romantic cruise along the Manchester Ship Canal

Visit the ruins of Old Detroit

Watch men in fancy garters perform an extremely silly Morris Dance in the picturesque Cotswold village of Much Piddling on the Marsh

And suppose the Chinese took it into their heads to purloin our best jokes, like the white-horse-called-Kevin joke:

A red dragon goes into a bar and orders a drink. ‘Blimey,’ says the barman ‘a talking dragon. Did you know they named a rice wine after you?’ ‘What,’ says the dragon, ‘Zhang Wei?’

It doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?

*  *  *

I got the name Zhang Wei from a website dedicated to the most popular Chinese personal names. According to this website, the commonest female name is Wang Fang which means ‘aromatous’ (sic.) I assume the writer meant ‘aromatic’ and speculated on the difficulty of accurate translation.

‘Hello, my dear,’ says the polite Englishman visiting a bordello in Xi’an, 'and what is your name?’

‘Wang Fang.’

‘What a beautiful name. And what does it mean?’


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