Story with Uncle Reggie: Where are you from?
与曾叔叔講故事:你是哪里人?
( 翻譯)

Since I’m Asian, and look Asian, I often get a question like, “where are you from?” I like to pull the questioner’s leg, and answer, truthfully, “I’m from Cincinnati.” After all, I have lived in Cincinnati 47 years, and that’s half a century, most of my life, which is really where I’m from! The person asking the question might persist, “you know what I mean, where are you really from?” If I’m still having fun, I would emphasize again, “I’m really from Cincinnati, I lived there for 47 years!” Or I might even add, “but my mother was actually born here, right here in Seattle.”

因为我是亚裔,而且看起来就是亚裔,所以我经常会被问到“你是哪里人?”这个问题。我喜欢逗提问者一把,然后就如实地回答:“我是辛辛那提人”。“毕竟,我在辛辛那提住了 47年(几乎半个世纪,也是我人生的大部分时间),那是我真正的家乡!”。问这个问题的人可能会再追问:“你知道我的意思吧,你到底是哪里人?”如果我继续逗下去,我会再次强调,“我真地来自辛辛那提,我在那里住了 47 年!”或者我可能会加上一句,“但我母亲实际上是在西雅图出生的,是的,就在西雅图。”

Seeing that the questioner might still not be satisfied, or getting quite puzzled, I would then, to prolong her agony, say “my mother’s parents came over from a coastal city of China, 115 years ago, and the family has 6 generations in America.” That usually, finally, nearly satisfies the questioner, provides some education about the great diversity among Asians, and a bit of a shock to find that my family likely has had more generations in America than hers! Probably quite confusing to most Americans.

看到提问者可能仍然不满意,或者感到更加困惑,我就会进一步吊他们胃口,说:“我母亲的父母是 115 年前从中国沿海城市来的,他们一家在美国已经有六代人了。”这通常会让提问者感到满意,也让他们了解到亚裔的多样性,而且会惊讶于我们家族在美国的世代可能比他们家族的还要多。可能对大多数美国人来说都会惊讶于我们家已经在美国有 6 代人之久。

Maternal grandparents’ descendants, my cousin’s family. Including the baby, amazingly it is already 6 generations in USA. They’re simply (unhyphenated) “Americans.”
外祖父母的后代,表妹的家。令人惊讶的是,包括婴儿在内,美国已经有六代人了。他们仅仅是“美国人”(没有连字符)。

I had an Uber driver, on my first Uber ride, not too long ago, who was from Eritrea, and I also pulled her leg with the same kind of dialogue. She was less amused, didn’t quite like my answers, and segued into her real worry, which was that her daughter would soon forget that she is “from Eritrea.” She wasn’t that happy that many children of her own friends seemed to have forgotten their “heritage” and ancestral language. I totally understood, and I empathized with her, reassuring her, in particular, that native language skills are really important, and how we could nurture that. Mainly, I ventured, by insisting on speaking it at home, especially providing more opportunities for grandma to visit often or even live with the family; being immersed in an original language community, like at an ethnic church; and making more visits back to the home country, if she could. She liked that discussion, and probably us, better; “where are you from?” has sensitive emotional implications.

不久前,我第一次乘坐优步时,有个来自厄立特里亚的优步司机,我也用同样的对话逗她。她不那么高兴了,也不太喜欢我的回答,并把她真正的担心说了出来,那就是她的女儿很快就会忘记她是“厄立特里亚人”。她周围很多朋友的孩子似乎忘记了他们的“遗产”和“母语”,这让她感到很不高兴。我完全理解她,也和她很有共鸣,尤其是说母语对于孩子们的重要性这一点我们高度一致。我们应该如何培养说母语呢?我大胆地说,主要是坚持在家里说,特别是让奶奶有更多的机会来家里串门,甚至和家人住在一起;沉浸在一个原始的语言环境,就像在一个少数族裔的教堂里;如果可能的话,更多地回到自己的祖国。她应该是更喜欢这样的讨论,也许是更喜欢我们。“你来自哪里?”这句话带有敏感的情感暗示。

In fact, even as I was growing up in Hong Kong, we had even deeper implications with the question, “where are you from?” Because, in reality, practically no one at the time was actually “from Hong Kong.” Everybody was basically from somewhere else. Most people were from the mainland of China, often just using Hong Kong as a stepping stone, before they moved on to America, Australia, or Southeast Asia. A century before that, Hong Kong was just a pirate island refuge, just a bunch of rocks, until China gave part of it to Great Britain, and it gradually becamea true port city.

事实上,即使我在香港长大,“你来自哪里?”这个问题对我们的影响甚至更深。因为实际上,当时几乎没有人真正“来自香港”。“每个人基本上都来自其他地方。大多数人来自中国大陆,在他们去美国、澳大利亚或东南亚之前,通常只是把香港作为跳板。在那之前的一个世纪,香港几乎还只是海盗的避难所,只是一堆岩石,直到中国把它的一部分割让给了英国,它才逐渐成为一个真正的港口城市。

Its spectacular growth didn’t really occur until hordes of refugees in waves flooded into the city, particularly beginning in the 1940s. Its population burgeoned, and refugees brought in valuable technical and business expertise from the great cities of China. The city flourished amazingly in the laissez-faire British freeport system. “Where are you from” would be a common and important question, since it could open, or close, many doors of opportunity.

尤其是在 20 世纪 40 年代,大批难民涌入这座城市之后,这座城市才真正实现了惊人的发展。它的人口迅速增长,难民从中国大城市带来了宝贵的技术、商业等专业知识和技能。在英国自由放任的自由港体系下,香港奇迹般地繁荣起来。“你来自哪里”将是一个常见而重要的问题,因为它可能打开或关闭许多机会之门。

People from Swatow (a coastal city in SE China) tended to get together and do business with ga ghee nang, as they say, “our own people,” and Shanghai people similarly. And, the local Cantonese speaking people easily spotted anyone who was not a native Cantonese speaker.
Cantonese has a most complex 9 tone language, and any non-native could be recognized the second they open their mouths. I joke that, when a non-native says any Cantonese word, there is more than an 8:1 chance of being wrong!

来自汕头(中国东南部的一个沿海城市)的人喜欢聚在一起和“ga ghee nang(自家人)”做生意,用他们的话说,“我们自己的人”。上海人也一样。而且,当地说粤语的人很容易就能分辨出母语不是粤语的人。广东话是一种声调非常复杂九个音调的语言。任何非母语的人一张嘴就能被认出来。我开玩笑说,当一个非本地的人说广东话的时候,有超过 8:1 的几率出错!

As I was growing up, if anyone asked “where are you from,” the question was actually phrased even more precisely, something like, “nei heung ha hai bin do,” in Cantonese, or “what village are you from?” Since everybody’s ancestors most likely did come from some sort of an
“ancestral village,” this was actually a perfect question.

在我的成长过程中,如果有人问我“你从哪里来”,这个问题的措辞实际上可以更加精确,比如用广东话说“nei heung ha hai bin do”或者“你来自哪个村庄?”因为每个人的祖先都很可能来自某个“祖先村庄”,这实际上是一个更精准的问题。

So, I would generally respond, “I’m a Hakka person, from Wukingfu village.” In modern Mandarin pinyin, a Kejia person, whose ancestors who were from the village of Wujingfu, in Guangdong province. Meaning I am ethnic Hakka, sometimes considered a minority tribe in China, following my father’s clan designations for identification of my ethnicity. And I identified precisely my “real” ancestral village of origin, answering clearly the query, “where are you from?” Really “granular,” as people like to say nowadays. Since my mother was born in the USA, this was really too confusing to even mention, and often, to me, a bit of an embarrassment, if this ever came up. Just too complicated to explain, for a child. Fortunately, at the time, it was not usually necessary to expound on that.

所以,我一般会回答:“我是客家人,来自五经富。”这意味着我的祖先起源自广东省五经富的客家村。客家,有时被认为是中国的一个少数民族部落,根据我父亲的宗族姓氏来确定我的种族。我准确地确定了我“真正”的祖籍村庄,清晰地回答了“你来自哪里?”就像现在人们喜欢说的那样,“非常细粒度”。因为我的母亲出生在美国,这就有点棘手了,以至于我甚至就不提母亲的族系,这样就不至于经常遇到尴尬。因为对一个孩子来说,这解释起来太复杂了。好在,在当时,通常没有必要对此进行解释。

Ancestral Hakka village and home
客家乡村老家

This novel way of ascertaining ancestral origin, locating the specific ancestral village, was really a great way of pinpointing more precisely one’s lineage, an important fact in traditional culture. This was likely also helpful since Hong Kong, especially then, had a very confusing mix of people from all kinds of backgrounds, and everyone’s story could actually be very different and interesting. Exotic actually. Growing up, I liked the famous movie, Casablanca, with its exotic mixing of people from all over the world, being there for adventure or passion, or trying to pass through or get away. Hong Kong at the time felt like that. You can read more about my real heritage, in Reggietales.org, “We are all Hakkas.”

这种确定祖先起源的很特殊的方法,确定特定的祖先村庄,是更精确地确定一个人的血统的好方法,这在传统文化中是一个重要的事实。这可能也有实际的帮助,因为香港,特别是在那个时候,四面八方、各行各业的人混合到一起,各有各的背景,各有各的故事。非常地异国情调。年幼的时候,我都很喜欢著名的电影《卡萨布兰卡》,来自世界各地的人混杂在一起,充满了异国情调,去那里的人是为了冒险或激情,或是试图穿越或逃离。当时的香港就是这种感觉。你可以在 Reggietales.org 上阅读更多关于我的真正遗产的内容,“我们都是客家人。”

At the time, with this great village question, it seemed also like a very logical, and polite, way to “break the ice,” when we first met anyone. After all, most people looked some shade of Asian, or Chinese, and it allowed the opening chatter to be directed along different lines of diversity. Truly, a sort of “where are you really from?” kind of question, like the average American asking an Asian looking person in America, though in that case, in sensitive America, you really might offend someone, if you’re not careful! Like maybe an American born Asian with 6 generations inthe USA?

在当时,当我们第一次见到某人时,用这个伟大的“乡村问题”来“打破僵局”似乎是一种非常合乎逻辑、礼貌的方式。毕竟,大多数人看上去都有一些亚洲人或中国人的影子,这使得开场的谈话可以沿着多样性的不同方向进行。真的,就像是“你到底从哪里来?”这类问题,在美国一般的美国人会问一个长得像亚洲人的人,在这种情况下,在敏感的美国,如果你不小心的话,你真的可能会冒犯别人!比如一个出生在美国的亚洲人,有 6 代人在美国?

When I moved to Cincinnati, 50 years ago, I tried to learn Mandarin Chinese, mostly from chatting with ethnic Chinese from different parts of the world, since often that was the language more likely to be common to all. I didn’t realize, at first, that the question “where are
you from,” had potentially political overtones also. In fact, I asked, quite innocently, that question, literally word for word from Cantonese, in my faulting and faulty Mandarin, “ni xiang xia na li, which village are you from?” to a young lady from Taiwan.

50 年前,当我搬到辛辛那提(Cincinnati)时,我试着学习普通话,主要是通过与来自世界各地的华裔聊天,因为这种语言通常对所有人来说都是通用的。一开始,我并没有意识到“你来自哪里”这个问题还有潜在的政治意味。事实上,我很天真地,用我的不流利的普通话逐字逐句地问了一位来自台湾的年轻女士这个问题:“你是哪个村的?”廣東話, “你鄉下喺邊度?“

In my subconscious thinking, I just meant which town in Taiwan she was from, or an ancestral connection to maybe even a village in China. This was a multi-layered, loaded question, since there is some sensitivity about Chinese origins among some Taiwanese, which I vaguely knew about. But the sophisticated young lady went even one step further in her indignation, “I’m not from a village, I’m from the city of Taipei.” Of course, Taipei is a dazzling big city, very far removed from a village, and I can understand her indignation! How could I imagine her as a villager!

在我的潜意识里,我指的是她来自台湾的哪个城镇,或者她与中国某个村庄的血缘关系。这是一个多层次的、含混不清的问题,因为一些台湾人对中国血统有些敏感,而我对这一点也模糊地有了解。但这位生长在大城市的年轻女士甚至被这个问题激怒了,气愤地说:“我不是来自哪个村,我来自台北“。当然,台北是一个耀眼的现代城市,离村庄很远,我能理解她的愤怒!我怎么能想象她是一个村民呢!

Both my wife and I have Chinese ancestry, but I grew up in a British colony, while she grew up in Thailand, which has often made me curious about how ancestry and recent location intersect. For example, in answering the question of “where are you from?” I observed the
changes in response, with each generation of Thai students who had Chinese ancestry. In my wife’s generation, Thai Chinese (Thai citizens of Chinese ancestry) would always say something like, “I’m from Thailand, but I’m Chinese; or even I’m an overseas Chinese from Thailand.” The word overseas Chinese, Hua qiao: referencing Chinese = hua; living abroad = qiao; definitely signals a very complex relationship, including the underlying implication that the original motherland is actually China.

我的妻子和我都有中国血统,但我在英国殖民地长大,而她在泰国长大,这常常让我好奇祖先们是如何与现代的地缘联系起来的。例如,在回答“你来自哪里?”这个问题时,我观察到了不同代有中国血统的泰国学生的反应变化。在我妻子那一代,泰国华人(有中国血统的泰国公民)总是会说,“我来自泰国,但我是中国人;甚至我是一个来自泰国的华侨。华侨一词的解释是:华=中国;侨=生活在国外。这明确地表明了一种非常复杂的关系,包括的潜在暗示就是原来的祖国实际上是中国。

Subsequent generations basically transitioned to simply saying that, “I’m from Thailand,” making no allusion to any Chinese connection, even though they may have had strong Chinese ancestry. If I asked some more questions like, “were your ancestors indigenous to Thailand?”
then it turns out that, in a very large number of cases, all their grandparents were actually originally from China. At that point, they would then hastily add, a bit shyly, “but I don’t know any Chinese.”

他们的后代基本上只会说,“我来自泰国”,并没有暗示他们与中国有任何联系,尽管他们可能有很强的中国血统。如果我再问一些像“你的祖先是泰国本地人吗?”“结果发现,在很多情况下,他们的祖父母实际上都来自中国。到了那个时候,他们会有点害羞地匆忙补充说:“但我一句中文都不懂。”

Their grandparents actually might even still be speaking Swatow Chinese (the dominant Chinese group that migrated to Thailand a century ago) at home, to each other, and to their own children, while the grandchildren could only understand some simple words, like jia mue, or
“eat your congee,” in Swatow, but not enough to really engage in a real conversation.

实际上他们的祖父母甚至可能仍是在家里说汕头(汕头人是一个世纪以前,从中国大量迁移到泰国的主导人群)话,相互之间或者与他们的子女之间。而孙辈们只能理解一些简单的单词,像 jia mue,或“吃粥”,但不足以进行真正的对话。

People living in countries that have had an active discrimination policy against minorities usually take a longer time, and more generations before they lose the “hyphens”. Hyphenated “Malaysian-Chinese” is still an acceptable term of classification of ethnic Chinese living even several generations in Malaysia, possibly reflecting generations of an upside-down affirmative action policy for the majority. Meaning that, instead of giving preferences to the minority, actually preferences are given to the majority, in theory to compensate for differences in income of the majority “natives” compared with the wealth of the “newer” arrivals. Of course, policies like that enshrine differences between majority and minority, and thus minorities remain hyphenated.

生活在对少数民族有明显歧视政策的国家的人,通常需要更长的时间和更多的世代才能失去“连字符”。用连字符连在一起的“马来西亚华人”仍然是一个可以接受的分类术语,用来分类已经在马来西亚生活了好几代的华人,这可能反映了几代人对多数人实行的一种颠倒的平权政策。这意味着,在理论上,大多数“本地人”的收入与“新来者”的财富相比存在差异,而不是给予少数人优惠,实际上是给予大多数人优惠。当然,这样的政策强调了多数人和少数人之间的差异,因此少数人仍然是用连字符来特别注明的。

It seems that, where 3 things have happened, as in Thailand, there really is no need to be a “hyphenated citizen”: 1) there is reasonable amicable assimilation of a minority into a country; 2) conversion of their ancestral names into the dominant language names, like a last name in Chinese of Chong, into a typically long name in Thai of Chantarasuksom; and 3) gradual loss of the original immigrant language. At that point, they really are “just Thai citizens,” and not ThaiChinese citizens!

在泰国发生了这样三件事,使“连字符公民”不再那么需要被突出:1)少数民族被合理、友好地同化到了一个国家;2)将祖先传下来的姓氏转换为当地占主导地位的语言名称,比如将汉语中的姓氏“钟”(Chong)转换为泰国语中典型的长名字“Chantarasuksom”;3)逐渐丧失原始移民的母语。这样一来,他们真的就“只是泰国人”,而不是华裔!。

Of course, physical appearances probably could still color this definition. Appearances more like the dominant race will have a faster disappearance of the hyphen! Like my “mixed” 4th, 5th, or 6th generation, American born cousins’ offspring in America! They simply say, “I’m American,” no hyphens at all! And there is no need to answer, “where am I really from?”

当然,相貌肤色可能会给这个去“连字符“的标签进一步增色。人们的样貌越来越像当地人,连字符也就更快消失了!就像我们家族的第 4 代、第 5 代、第 6 代在美国出生的“混血”后代一样!他们只是简单地说“我是美国人”,根本没有连字符!没有必要回答,“我到底从哪里来?”

I for one, quite like the hyphenated American designation, simply because it is more interesting and fun just to figure out “where I am really from!” Well, at least for a very few generations: indeed, most people really cannot handle this kind of question more than a few generations after the first immigrant one, which is sort of a pity. I kind of wish we could do more in some way. I like the Hawaiian approach of declaring that “I am 1/16th Japanese, 1/8th Filipino, 1/4th Hawaiian……..“which one day we might readily do, with all these ancestry DNA gimmicks that are being advertised. I assume that one day we might be able to trace our DNA all the way back
to Adam, reflecting the real answer of where I am from, as, “I am really from the Garden of Eden.” Just 100% human, no hyphens.

就我而言,我很喜欢用连字符表示是怎样的美国人,这样更容易弄清楚“我到底是从哪里来的!”好吧,至少在少数几代人的时间里是这样的:事实上,大多数人在第一个移民的几代人之后就不能够应付这类问题。这有点遗憾。我希望我们能在某种程度上做得更多。我喜欢夏威夷人宣称“我是十六分之一的日本人,八分之一的菲律宾人,四分之一的夏威夷人……”的方式。有一天我们很可能会这么做,因为有这么多关于祖先 DNA 的噱头在广告中出现。我认为有一天我们可以把我们的 DNA 一直追溯到亚当,反映出我从哪里来的真实答案,就像,“我真的来自伊甸园。”“只是 100%的人类而已,没有连字符。