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Saturday, Oct. 25, 2003

JAPAN LITE

I am Eiimi: a beautiful, excellent twig!


As promised, today I will translate names of foreigners into Japanese to reveal their true meanings. Since I did male names last time, I'll do female names this week. However, I decided to highlight famous women in order that we might find out a little more about them than we would ordinarily be allowed to know. Indeed, you'll find out some shocking tidbits of information hiding behind these women's names after they've been translated into Japanese.

Queen Elizabeth : The name Elizabeth, or "E-ri-za-be-su" when put into the Japanese "katakana" alphabet, has royalty written all over it. The second and third sounds, "ri" and "za," mean "an official" and "throne," respectively. But let's take the syllables one by one. Elizabeth starts with "e," which means "a drawing." So we have a drawing of an official ("ri") on a throne ("za"). What does that drawing reveal? A lute ("be"), supporting our image of royalty. The last sound, "su," means "lord" or "master." Elizabeth is the perfect royal name!

Hillary Clinton , or "He-ra-ri," doesn't fare so well. I am very sorry to report that the first sound, "he," has a funny meaning in Japanese. In fact, it's not a good sound at all, because "he" means "fart." To add insult to injury, "ra" means "naked" and "ri" is "an official." The idea of an official, naked and farting, leads me to think that there must be some mistake -- it sounds more like her husband to me.

Margaret Thatcher only fares slightly better. "Ma-ga-re-tto in Japanese has many interpretations. "Ma" can mean the devil, and "ga" is "congratulations." "Retto," unfortunately, means "inferior." As if being a person who congratulates the devil wasn't enough! Hilary and Margaret in the same room would surely make nude witchcraft.

Let's move on to movie stars, where we may have better luck. Audrey Hepburn is one of the most visible actresses in Japan. She starred in "Roman Holiday," which remains wildly popular here, and her face can be seen daily gracing the walls of stores and buildings for advertisers all over Japan. The most famous pose is the one with her wearing a tiara. Audrey Hepburn is a classic icon for the Japanese. The real reason she is still so popular, however, may be her name. "O-do-ri" starts with two sounds that, when put together, mean "royal." "Ri," as mentioned above, means "an official," but it can also mean "clever." "Clever royalty" is the message she beams out from posters and signs throughout Japan.

Susan Sarandon , or "Su-zen" is simply "a nest ('su') of Zen." Cozy Buddhism -- what more could one want?

Mariah Care 's name, "ma-rai-a," is very fitting for the famous star she is in Japan. "Ma" happens to mean a "pause in music." "Rai" means "thunder," which must refer to Mariah's powerful voice. Before thunder, there is often a pause, just like before the refrain in a song. Then "Ah!" is the reaction of hearing the thunder -- a little bit of surprise, a little bit of awe. "Ma-rai-a" demands our attention!

Celine Dion , "se-ri-nu," is a name she surely lives up to. "Se" is the word for "back," and a strong back is what is needed to raise children in Japan. More correctly, the saying goes, "Mothers bring up children with their hearts, fathers with their backs." But Se-ri-nu has the advantage ("ri") of having "nu" (male servants), so she has access to as many backs as she needs to help her.

On to writers: Emily Dickinson , or "E-mi-ri," has a just name for her reputation. "E" means a "branch" or "twig," supporting her image as a poet of nature. "Mi" means "beautiful" and "ri" is clever. So she is a natural, clever and beautiful poet!

Joanne K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter children's books, would go by "Jo-an" in Japan. "Jo" conveniently means "woman," and "an" means, um, "bean paste." Well, you can't win 'em all.

If you're wondering what Amy, or "E-ii-mi" is in Japanese, "E," means "twig," "ii" means "good" or "excellent" and "mi" means "beautiful." Just call me "beautiful, excellent twig!"

E-mail: amychavez2000@yahoo.com Web site: www.amychavez.com


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