The Olympic games in Beijing are fast approaching, and y'all are getting a Chinese lesson, whether you want it or not.
I am fed up with having my last name mangled ever since my 1967 arrival in America. The Brits can pronounce it correctly. So can the Japanese and the French. I am betting the Lost Tribes of Israel and the Maoris can, too.
I'm not a linguist and don't know if any other language in the world possess that awful nasal a, as pronounced in nasty, which elicits the baring of the teeth and the wrinkling of the nose.
My last name, Yang, means poplar, willow, aspen or any tree of this family. It rhymes with young--an open sound. Say, Ahhhh, just like your doctor tells you. The ng is soft--barely pronounced-- and definitely NOT hard like the two g's in "garage." If you look in the mirror while saying, Yang, you see a nice tall O.
If you pronounce it wrong, you are baring your teeth aggressively, and millions upon millions of Yangs will cringe inwardly every time.
I was in Vancouver last weekend as one of three honorees of the American Immigration Law Foundation. The host was the Canadian CBC broadcaster, Ian Hanomansing (Indian parentage, born in Trinidad, former neighbor to V.S. Naipaul). Mr. Hanomansing had grown up having his name garbled all his life. He said he didn't want to mangle the name of Microsoft's chief immigration lawyer, Lydia Tamez. Hey, Mr. Hanomansing, what about Yang. You mangled Yang.
I now regret that when it came my turn to give my speel, I passed on the opportunity to teach over eight hundred immigration lawyers the right way to pronounce Chinese. (Btw, I have to toot my own horn. How else will y'all know, dammit. My discourse was so touching, I received a standing ovation from the eight hundred.)
Over a quarter of a century ago, I'd gotten into a brawl with my loutish boyfriend in a bar, because he said I was being pretentious when I pronounced the green Japanese liqueur, Midori, with a teensy trill of the r. It was the way I learned it as a child in Japan.
Recently, a Latino friend pronounced our neighboring city, Monterey, with a trill of the r. Monterrrrrry had never sounded more beautiful.
So here is the lesson:
Wang is pronounced open-mouthed like Wong.
If someone is named Fang, give her a break; pronounce it Fong.
Yin and yang is pronounced, yin and young.
I repeat: All words ending in ng is soft,--barely pronounced--and definitely NOT hard as the name for the structure where you park your motor vehicle.
So go forth Redroomers and spread the good word. No nasal a in Chinese. My delicate ears and sensibilities will be forever grateful. And so will 1.3 billion people on planet Earth.
Belle, the forever young
Ahhh, so very cathartic to get this issue off my chest after forty-one years.
Causes Belle Yang Supports
826 Valencia Street