It all started, see, with a friend of mine from school. She's Chinese, and her name is He Yinan. She arrived here at the 'tute
with a fierce defensive attitude, some pairs of sharp-pointed shoes, and a vicious and well-aimed kick
reflex. This, it swiftly became clear, was what you risked if you started any argument involving:
- Relationships (her fiancé at the time was home in China)
- Chinese nationalism
- The PRC's position on...well, anything
- Her habit of kicking people in the shins.
In any case, she is also quite small ("...in a wonderful way, damn it!" /me dodges) and, er, feisty. So her fiancé eventually showed up. We gave him a pair of shin guards for his impending wedding present. That got us all bruised.
But I digress. In any case, I one day asked her what the word for 'little' was, and she (foolishly) told me it was xiao (as near as I can write it). I immediately began calling her Xiao He, or 'Little He.' This got me kicked. A lot.
Then one of our other friends went to China, and happened to use the word sha in conversation, translating it for us as 'silly' when pressed. Happily, I immediately renamed He Yinan Xiao sha He for obvious reasons. My right shin turned a wonderful mix of green and purple the next morning.
Finally, their wedding came, and I was asked to act as an usher. I did so, feeling honored, and was subjected to He Yinan's traditional griping about how this meant she was aging. Sotto voce, I asked the other usher (our traveling friend, who was by now reasonably fluent in Mandarin) how one said 'old.' He thought, then whispered back that the best translation he had was lao, which meant elder (as a title).
Thus the final rechristening to Xiao sha lao He. It is meant to be said with glee.
She's gone to Japan to do research. I miss her fiery voice and highly opinionated self at the roundtables we have, but my shins are healing, at least.
Update: she's ba-a-ack! She claims she doesn't kick anymore. We'll see about that.