Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 24, 2008
BLOG: Multicultural Ignorance

How can the use of feng shui, a traditional Chinese concept, in a California McDonald's "help all customers tap their inner Zen," Zen being a Japanese religious/philosophical concept? You would think an AP reporter named Nguyen (a Vietnamese surname) would know the difference, but apparently all "Asians" are alike to her.

A person knowledgeable about her Vietnamese heritage would be acutely sensitive to such distinctions,the distinction between Chinese and Japanese culture and tradition being of enormous importance to East Asian history. A person raised in America to think of all "Asians" as a homogenous mass to be agglomerated for political purposes might miss that distinction. I infer the latter.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

Zen is the more popular name that it is known by, but the concept of Zen - originated in China I believe under the word Chan(I can't remember if it was changed from India or originated there). I think the Vietnamese word is a pidgin manipulation of the word Zen as well, coincidently. That might have added into her word choice.

It is a shared concept between both Japan and China, not only a Japanese concept - and while she (and her headline writer? and her editor?) may have strayed into mixing. I'd go with bad for mixing words between languages though, as putting "Chan(also known as Zen)" would not have extended it too much.

Maybe you should reach out to her and her editor to check if it got changed for her, sacrificing symmetry for readability. Or, being an AP article, if it was changed without her knowledge entirely.
Or, if she blended for another reason(including messing up).

Posted by: Dave at February 24, 2008 11:32 PM

In addition to Dave's points about shared cultural references to Zen or Chan, maybe it is not a bad thing if she were to be excused for ignorance of all things Asian. We want immigrants (and their kids/grandkids) to assimilate. I'm not expected to have more knowledge of Ireland than other American just because my surname reveals my family came from there. I'm part German from my mother's side of the family, but no one assumes I have a special affinity for sauerkraut. Maybe we are reaching a point where we don't assume Asians are good with chopsticks, Jews are financially adept, etc. Crank, would you have posted about this article if the author was named Smith?

Posted by: Largebill at February 25, 2008 8:28 AM

Yeah, I've got to jump on the "over-reaction" bandwagon here. "Zen" is a catch-all phrase in English, and even if that specific term is specifically Japanese in origin, the concepts are "eastern," with as much (or more) Chinese heritage as Japanese. (Really, find a feng shui website that doesn't mention Zen - I'm betting that you can't. [OK, maybe you can, but you can't find many.])

I study a Korean martial art called Tang Soo Do, but am very apt, in casual conversation to refer to "karate," a Japanese term meaning essentially the same thing. But people have a mental picture, accurate or not, for "karate" and I can say it without having to explain. If I say "Tang Soo Do." I have to explain. If she writes "Zen," people know (or don't) what she's talking about. If she says "Chan" it may be more technically correct (like calling a cow a "female bovine"), but isn't any more accurate, and doesn't advance the story a bit. Her usage was absolutely appropriate.

Posted by: Lyford at February 25, 2008 11:04 AM

"Triggering the Grand Irrationality?"

Cowering in an obscure corner of the food pyramid

somewhere between the tofu and the unflavored yogurt

contemplating the juxtaposition of intangibles for all you are worth.....

Posted by: poetryman69 at February 26, 2008 7:23 AM
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