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The Chinese Have a Name for It

--Would you vote for a presidential candidate whose name means “it isn’t so”? How about someone named “present calling card overcomes secrets”? According to linguist Charles Berlitz, author of more than 200 language books, the names of American politicians take on new--and sometimes baffling--meaning in Chinese. Berlitz said the Chinese translate them into their alphabet by using the characters whose sounds most resemble the syllables they hear. Thus GOP presidential hopeful Vice President George Bush is known as “bu-shih,” or “it isn’t so,” and Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, his Democratic challenger, is “du-ka-ke-se,” or “present calling card overcomes secrets.” Sen. Lloyd Bentsen is “ben-sen,” or “forest origin,” and Sen. Dan Quayle is “kuei-er,” or “you star.” President Reagan goes by the impressive moniker of “lay-gun,” or “voice of thunder.” But Berlitz’s personal favorite is former President Richard M. Nixon. The Chinese know him as “niko-sen,” or “mud covers the forest.” The Chinese themselves have only about 100 family names, and most mean nice things.

--In a voice reminiscent of Alvin the singing chipmunk, the radio announcer in Alexandria, La., urges listeners: “Don’t let the squirrels take your vote away.” The “squirrel vote” is a large bloc in the largely rural 8th Congressional District, where four candidates are trying to unseat Republican Rep. Clyde C. Holloway. Because Saturday’s election coincides with the opening of Louisiana’s hunting season, Holloway is running the ad urging squirrel hunters to vote absentee--or in person--before heading into the woods.

--Flush with pride, the movers and shakers in the world of plumbing and waste water treatment celebrated the opening of a new exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry illustrating the plumber’s role as guardian of the nation’s health. “The average person flushes the closet and (they) don’t know what happens to the water. They don’t realize what’s all involved in plumbing,” said William Reichert, chairman of the Chicago Plumbing Council. The exhibit follows the flow of water in the Chicago area from Lake Michigan through treatment plants, into the home, out the toilet and into sewage treatment plants. Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer did the honors in the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, which in this case was a pipe-cutting ceremony. “I’ve just earned my plumbing (union) card again,” Sawyer said. “I used to be a member of the Plumbers Union because I started out in the Water Department as a chemist.”


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