Monday, January 25, 2010

1/2 + 1/2 = ?

Last night Erin Ai had a revelation! 

She had been working on her autobiography for school, and was asking us about the reason for naming her Erin.  (The reason for crossing out the name, is that I can't tell this story without revealing her real name!  Oh dear, I would never make a good spy, would I?)

By the 4th child, we were wondering how we could keep up our custom of having all of the children have one kanji in common.  But I also wanted a name that could fit both Japanese and English without being too foreign for relatives in both countries.  Ai knew that when we were expecting her we were beginning the preparations to build a house with a view from our lot of a woody hillside.  Then, too, my middle name is Lynn, and part of her actual name has a similar sound in it.  (To the Japanese ear, that is!)  But what she had to ask is which country is her name connected to, and why is that something I always tell her.

And when I told her, you could see from her expression what an impact it had on her.  An epiphany moment of sorts.  She was so surprised she even cried.  Imagine that.  What did she discover?

In Japan, a "Half" is a person who is not 100% Japanese.  Some people may think it's shortened from the word halfbreed, but I don't think that it is actually.  And it's not necessarily a put down, either, though there are people who don't like the term.  In fact, when I first encountered it with Megumi, I had heard from someone that they preferred saying "I'm not Half, I'm Double."  The idea being that bicultural children grow up with 2 cultures, languages, customs,  passports, etc, not 1/2 of them.  Then when Nozomi told me that one of her elementary classmated had called her a Half as though it was not a good thing, I assured her that her friend was also a Half.  Everybody is half of their mother and half of their father.  (I've always wondered how her friend liked my little explanation about that.)

Back to Ai's query.  Why do I always remind her that her name means Ireland?  Why do I tell people that all of the siblings names are Irish?  She's half Japanese and half American, right?  Right.  And the American part is a mixture of Irish, English and German, mostly Irish. 


She never realized until last night.  And she cried.  Her face was radiantly surprised, and after she wiped her tears, guess what she did?  She called her best friend, who.....

..... is also a Half.  And while on the phone, she could hear her friend asking her own mother if her Philippine half was only Philippine.  Her mother told her that there's some Spanish and German in the mix as well. 

1/2 + 1/2 = Double and a Lot More

*  Upon writing this, I re-read it, and I doubt anyone will understand it unless you know Japanese, English and the various ways of writing and pronouncing both languages.  Oh well, sorry about that if you don't get the marvel of this episode.


Brian Yamabe said...

I'm yon-sei so I had to say "Lynn" a couple times to get it. My wife, also yon-sei, is named Erin and I have a sister Karen and a brother Kevin. There must be some weird Japanese, German (Lutheran), Irish thing ;-)

Becky said...

Brian is also a good name! One of my ni-sei cousins has that name. My Ai has only been to the US once, and she was surprised to encounter several girls with the same name. It's even becoming known over here, too. Though, most people don't hear the final 'n' and think her name is really Eri.

Anonymous said...

Circumstances are the rulers of the weak, instrument of the wise..........................

Crzy.Biker.Quilter said...

Becky, my girls have just recently done the same thing concerning their names.. they all have hebrew names, that is where they come from derivatively. But I am of Irish and Native American Decent, so for them they were really confused as to why they were given those exact names. Christa Marie is the eldest of daughters her first name was one I fell in love with when God told me I'd have a girl the second time around my son is the eldest and he is named after his father, grandda, and his great grandda. My oldest daughter's middle name came from my gran on my mother's side. My youngest daughter is Jessica her middle name is after me minus a letter and a different one its its place her name is Jessica Michelle the Michelle is a derivative of my name or vice versa. I've had to explain a couple of times how and why they got their names then go on to tell them to research them. right before my eldest was born a teacher with her name was killed in the challenger explosioin, within a week of my youngest being born a little girl names Jessica fell down a well and had to be rescued took a long time, but their names were given to then before any of this happened, it surprised them.