For instance both of us are huge history buffs and on the occasional evenings, we usually end up watching dreadfully dull documentaries on ancient crumbling civilizations much to the disgust of my disgruntled brother. Which is how we managed to tune in to a documentary about the magnificent Forbidden Palace in Beijing.
Let's not argue that the enterprising Chinese people built one of the finest civilizations over there in the fertile Yellow River Delta, erecting achritectural wonders, monuments and palaces. But like any bureaucratic nation - especially staffed with a thousand and one sycophantic eunuchs, is it any wonder that the hoity-toity language of the court deals with a whole lot of grandiloquent gibberish?
Seriously, some of the names given to the chambers and halls in the Forbidden Palace would probably induce an embarassed titter or two. No doubt the meaning in Chinese is simply inspirational but it somehow loses its manifold charm in translation. Sometimes it seems as if some overenthused courtier back in the days of yore had gotten hold of a particularly wordy thesaurus from a particularly conniving merchant and fished out the most impressive sounding ( with the highest number of syllables ) synonym for a match.
Sure I can be occasionally verbose with the occasional five-dollar words but these loquacious court interpreters certainly put me to shame. The Palace of Heavenly Purity? The Palace of Earthly Tranquility? Come on, how can anyone not make fun of the Hall of Mental Cultivation? Call it the damned study or the library dammit! And no doubt we all know what's strictly taboo in the aptly named Hall of Abstinence ( as well as the Gate of Chastity and Obedience! ).
Breaking out of the Hall of Abstinence
Some names are a little harder to comprehend. Maybe we have a vague idea of what's happening in the Hall of Imperial Zenith ( assume it's a display of imperial might and wealth ) but God only knows what's happening in the Hall of All-Encompassing Universe.
With a quietly mischievious twinkle in his eye, my father suggested renaming the rooms in my house for the sake of feng shui. Don't think it would hurt, right? Maybe my kitchen should be the Hall of Heavenly Offerings, and the toilet the Realm of Fragrant Ablution? Then I could stick wooden plaques outside my bedroom proclaiming it the Hall of Nocturnal Fantasies!
Wonder who I should hire as a sexy palace guard. Maybe Rangoon Ranger is still available.