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HTL Memory: 母 老 虎 和 我 的 中 文 名 字 (Mulaohu and My Chinese Name)

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

At his Tiger Talk on September 3, 2020, Jim Hargett shared this amusing story about Mrs. Lin and the origin of his Chinese name. His account captures Mrs. Lin's notoriously wry sense of humor.

“看起来你一点都不像 一个爱说话的老太太”


我第一次去明德大学读中文是 1973 年的夏天。开学那天, 为了欢迎所有国内和国外来的同学,暑期中文学校的校长与老师举行了一个招待会。那是我破天荒第一次见到我们校长。大家都叫他 “林太太” 。 第二天早上我一个人去上课时,在马路边上突然遇到了林太太。她见到我好象不光高高兴兴, 而且客客气气地问我:“同学你好!去上课吗?” 我回答说:“早上好, 校长! 是的! 我现在去上课了” 。 林太太又问了个问题:“你有中文的名字吗?” 我跟校长说: “有的。我叫何詹姆,何必的何,詹天佑的詹,保姆的姆.” 我看得出她很想笑,可是没笑。林太太接着问:“为什么叫 “詹姆” 呢?” 我说:“那是我台湾老师给我起的一个名字,就是 “James” 的意思” 。 我又看得出林太太真的想笑,可是还是没有笑,她问:“詹姆这两个字的意思到底是什么? 知道吗”? 何詹姆说:“不好意思,校长, 我不大清楚” 。 林太太说得很清楚:“詹就是爱说话的意思;姆就是老太太的意思。 James, 看起来你一点都不像 一个爱说话的老太太!” 我们两个人马上就开始大笑了。 那天中午一下课, 我立刻就回宿舍查字典。幸亏找到了一个 我很喜欢有zhan 声音的字,就是瞻望的瞻。从那天起,一直到现在,我中文的名字叫何瞻了。

Human translation of Jim's story:

You Don't Seem Anything Like a Chatty Old Woman -- A Mrs. Lin Story

My first time at Middlebury College studying Chinese was the summer of 1973. The first day of the program, the Director and faculty of the Chinese Language Summer Program held a reception to welcome all the students, who hailed from both the US and abroad. That was the very first time I encountered the Summer Program Director, whom everyone called "Mrs. Lin." The following morning, on my way to class I ran into Mrs. Lin. She seemed delighted to see me and greeted me courteously, "Hello! Are you on your way to class?" I answered, "Good morning, Director! Yes, I am on my way to class." Mrs. Lin asked, "Do you have a Chinese name?" I told her, "I do. My name is He Zhanmu. "Zhan" as in (the historic Chinese Yale graduate Zhan Tianyou), and "Mu" like "mu" in the word "nanny." I could tell she was trying not to laugh. She then asked, "Why are you named "Zhanmu?" I told her, "This is the name my teacher in Taiwan gave me. It means, 'James'." I could tell Mrs. Lin was trying hard not to laugh. She asked, "Do you actually know what those two characters, Zhanmu, mean?" I responded, "I'm sorry, Director, not really." Mrs. Lin stated quite clearly, "'Zhan' means 'chatty.' 'Mu' refers to an old woman. James, you seem nothing like a chatty old woman!" We both immediately broke into laughter. That noontime, right after class I went back to the dorm and opened my dictionary. Fortunately, I found a "zhan" character I liked -- "zhan" meaning to look forward or upward, as in "zhanwang" (to look into the distance). From that day forward, my name has been He Zhan.

Google Translate translation of Jim's story (Human: 1, AI: 0)

"You don’t look like a talking old lady" A little story about Mrs. Lin The first time I went to Mingde University to study Chinese was in the summer of 1973. On the day of school opening, in order to welcome all the students from home and abroad, the principal and teachers of the summer Chinese school held a reception. That was the first time I saw our principal. Everyone called him "Mrs. Lin". When I went to class by myself the next morning, I suddenly met Mrs. Lin on the side of the road. She seemed not only happy to see me, but also politely asked me: "Hello classmate! Are you going to class?" I replied: "Good morning, principal! Yes! I'm going to class now." Mrs. Lin asked another question: "Do you have a Chinese name?" I said to the principal: "Yes. My name is He James, why bother, Zhan Tianyou’s Zhan, the nanny’s mom." I could see She wanted to laugh, but she didn't. Mrs. Lin then asked: "Why is it called "James"?" I said: "That is a name my Taiwanese teacher gave me, which means "James"." I could see Mrs. Lin really wanted to laugh, but she still didn't laugh. She asked, "What does the word Jaime mean? You know?" He James said: "Sorry, principal, I don't know much." Mrs. Lin made it very clearly: "Zhan means talking; Mu means old lady. James, you don't look like a talking old lady at all!" The two of us immediately started laughing. After class at noon that day, I immediately went back to the dormitory to look up the dictionary. Fortunately, I found a word that I like very much with the sound of zhan, which is to look forward to. From that day until now, my Chinese name is He Zhan.

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