Dinner with my brother

WENT TO MY brother's new town house for dinner last night. Bro cooked up a fine dinner – sweet and sour pork using the traditional recipe passed down from generation to generation within our family. After dinner, we got into a discussion re our Chinese names and their meanings. We both agreed that the meaning of a person's name seems to be more significant in Chinese culture than in Australian culture.

Told Bro that I am not happy with the meaning of my Chinese name. My Chinese name – which my mother has told me is a very pretty name – apparently means "I will skip and pick clover from lush fields". Hate it hate it hate it.

Told Bro that our Auntie Wei doesn't like the meaning of her Chinese name either. Her name means "a very nice and intact hymen". Bro said he thought we were both being too critical. But he is only saying that because his name means "a very canny and all-powerful emperor with a loyal army of millions". I know our grandfather would side with Bro, but that's because Grandfather's name means "not only clever and lucky, but strong, handsome and patriotic, too".

But there was one thing Bro and I agreed on. We started reminiscing about the time when our younger sister, Summer Lotus, had her first child and our grandmother had the duty – as always – of picking the baby's Chinese name. On a whim, our grandmother chose a name that meant "middle management". Now, almost two years later, Bro and I agreed that that name was a strange choice.

Bro then recounted the story of Dad's arrival in Australia after the long boat trip from China. Dad arrived in Brisbane and was asked by immigration officials to change his name to a "roughly equivalent" anglicised name. Dad refused because there was no anglicised name that could approximate the meaning of his Chinese name, which trans­lates to "Mr Amazing". There was apparently a big argument but Dad won.

Hearing that story made me tell Bro my belief that if I could have any name, it would be "Ronnie Barker". Told him I thought it was a name that could really take me places. Bro then confessed to me that if he could have any name it would be "Indiana Jones". He said it was because of the marketing slogan for the Indiana Jones films. He quoted the slogan to me: "If 'adventure' has a name, then that name must be 'Indiana Jones'." I told Bro: "If 'patchy employment history' has a name, then that name must be 'Natasha Cho'."
Bro agreed.

Get the latest essay, memoir, reportage, fiction, poetry and more.

Subscribe to Griffith Review or purchase single editions here.

Griffith Review