Thursday, March 06, 2003

The Story of Mao

A couple of days ago, on the community website I ran before launching, someone asked about the origins of the name "maoman". Here's the answer for your reference.

When I first came to Taiwan in the late 80's, I was living in very uninternational Jiayi. The good people there butchered the hell out of my English name (Anthony), to the point that I cringed whenever anyone called me by my name. I begged a friend to give me a Chinese name. Since his surname was Mao, everybody called him Ah-Mao. I was bigger than him, and older than him (by one week), and I had long, curly rock-star hair (hey, it was the 80's) that my friend thought looked like yangmao (fleece), so I was given the nickname Da Mao. Literally, it could be translated as "Big Fuzz" or something like that. The truth is, "mao" by itself isn't very meaningful - most expressions use it as part of a compound word. And yes, I'm aware that half of the word for pubic hair - yinmao - is the same "mao" (陰毛).

Da Mao, I have been told on countless occasions, is not a serious name. It's a good name for a pet, although I have heard kids called this name on more than one occasion. It has worked for me though, because although students are sometimes intimidated by my appearance (I'm kind of big, and - Taiwanese people say - serious-looking), all shyness disappears when they hear my nickname. It's a great ice-breaker. I think a reasonable English equivalent would be "Scruffy" or "Shaggy" or something like that. As for "maoman", well that was first suggested to me one drunken night at the late, great Opium Den by one drunken "Wuman", aka David Wu, an ABC VJ-turned-actor. The mystery is over... Go in peace.

No comments: