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[Opinion] American Indian Names

Posted September. 23, 2003 23:18,   


Nora Ahpron, a female director in Hollywood who is well known for her wit and sharp tongue, often uses this humorous story about Indian names in her scenarios - One day, a young American Indian man asked the head of the tribe, ˝how you come up with all the names for babies.˝ Then, the old man answered without hesitation, ˝That is simple. When we have snow when a baby is born, I name him `Silently falling snow.` When a black kite is flying, he will be named `Flying black kite.` Why do you ask me of such a question, `Mating dog`?˝

It was through Kevin Costner`s Academy Award-winning movie `Dance with Wolves,` that people in this country became familiar with American Indian names. The movie is about a White American solider who befriends with Indians and learns how to live in nature. The movie broke the Hollywood rule of `White men are good and Indians evil` or `White man married to an Indian woman is bound to die.` The title of the movie came from the name of the American solider as he lives in a cabin and plays with wolves sometimes. The wise old head of the tribe is called `Ten Bears,` a brave warrior `Wind blowing over the head` and an Indian woman falling in love with the white solider `Stand with a fist.`

According to poet Ryu Shi-hwa, who recently wrote a book about American Indian culture titled `Why I Am I, Not You,` Indians prefer nature-friendly characteristic names such as `Walking in the rain,` `Sitting on the ground,` `Old corn beard` `Keeping it on bedside,` `People feel afraid of his words,` `Don`t know where to go,` `Like an animal running through the field` and `Wounded deer.` As Ryu asked too many questions about their life and culture, they named the poet `He has too many questions.`

Then, how will some celebrities in this country be named in an Indian way? Cho Yong-pil, a veteran pop singer who has his 35th anniversary concert in pouring rain, might be called `Singing wholeheartedly in the rain.` Pop icon Lee Hyo-lee might be called `Pretty dear with big bosoms,` and slugger Lee Seung-yeop `Sending balls over the fence.` Corrupt politicians then must be named `Pretending Not to Know about it,` and politicians changing parties `Eager to see how the wind is blowing.` A meteorological officer might be called `Staying up all night with storms and thunders.` Then, why not call President Roh Moo-hyun `Getting mad whenever reading newspapers.`

Oh Myeong-cheol, Editorial Writer, oscar@donga.com