2015 Archives

Here is a rather hilarious excerpt from Y. R. Chao 1916, "The Problem of the Chinese Language", The Chinese Students' Monthly, 11:7-8. I think this was Y. R. Chao's first article in English.

"A very interesting and important part of etymology is the question of the origin of Chinese words. Various Occidental philologists have conjectured a common origin between Chinese and Indo-European languages; and while a good deal of similarity between corresponding words are accidental, especially in the case of onomatopoeic words, still, if we look over the list of hundreds of words that have been regarded as being cognate with Indo-European words we cannot but consider the fact as established. A few examples are:

EnglishChinese cognateAncient pronunciation
king(German, König)
mill(Latin, mola)

"Some may object that most of these characters are modern characters. So they are, but the words themselves have existed and have been modified in their spoken form through all the vicissitudes of change of writing. This fact is what many ought to appreciate, for it dispels the wrong notion that the Chinese language consists of the sum total of the characters."

I imagine it's like sitting on a plane.

That's what I imagine for my mom's final hours. The seat's not very comfortable, the constant drone of the oxygen machine like an engine in the background, you're tired and drifting in and out of sleep, you want to get to your destination but it's still hours and hours away, but still you wish you could just be there already.

I wonder what she thought of all the people that came by. The RN who also happened to be a nun who knew exactly how much morphine to give her. "God loves you," the nurse tells her. "Jesus is waiting for you," she says, though she's Korean so her f's are p's and her v's are b's. The friends and relatives who come by with flowers and stuff. My sister, who wanted to be there for everything. Me, who didn't but went anyway out of obligation. "Thank you," she tells me, "for taking care of all the financials." "Don't be silly, it's all stuff that you taught me," I tell her.

I wonder what it was like in the months leading up to the end. Did she realize after her 42-day juice fast that it had failed to cure her cancer? Was her 25+ year faith in "alternative" and "naturopathic" medicine shaken at all? Did she even have time to think about it before the cancer fogged her brain? How much of her pain was she hiding so we wouldn't "worry" about her? When did the pain become so unbearable that she finally agreed to take morphine? When she complained about the pain after I had just given her painkillers, did it help at all when I held her hand?

I think of when Him Mark was dying and I went to visit. "I believe that when you die, you're just gone," he says, with a wave of his hand. I think that's when I started believing that too. I don't tell this to the Korean nurse/nun who speaks approvingly of my family's Catholicism.

But the end, I think, must have been like sitting on a plane. I think of her settling down in her uncomfortable seat for a very long plane ride to her final destination. She's tired and sleepy and oblivious to most things around her. It takes hours and hours and hours, as all long-distance plane rides do. The plane travels fast through the vast sky. And finally, the long journey is over.

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