This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

East is east: a rant

In Frideswide* Square in Oxford there is a Chinese eatery called Oriental Condor.

Oriental Condor?

So...that's condor as in bird living in the Andes and California.

This one's Andean.

...and oriental as in of the east.


My brain hurts.

But, hang on, Dinah Shore may have sung in Paleface that East is east and west is west**, but in that song east and west were both parts of the USA.

Yes. East may officially change to west on the line that runs through the London suburb of Greenwich, and change back again on the International Date Line that does its best to run through the emptiest bits of Pacific Ocean, but east and west are really relative terms.

So where would you have to be to talk of an oriental (that is, eastern) condor?

Well, about the furthest west you can get before you hit the International Date Line is Hawaii. And, hang on, there are a lot of Chinese people in Hawaii. Nearly 200,000 of them. According to Wikipedia their Hawaiian name is Pākē.

So. That Chinese restaurant in Oxford. The Oriental Condor. Perhaps it's run by Hawaiians. That'd make sense.

I'll tell you something, it'll be a heck of a relief to my system if it is.

Word To Use Today: oriental. This word comes from the Latin oriēns, rising (of the sun) from orīrī, to rise.

PS On the journey home from Oxford I saw a shop called CHILD'S FUNERAL SERVICES...

*Frideswide was a local saint. Well, with a name like that she was hardly going to be a rock star, was she?

**While we're on the subject of films, I can't ignore the unfortunate fact that although the 1969 feature is called Krakatoa, East of Java, Krakatoa is actually west of Java.



  1. Am very depressed by the knowledge that Krakatoa is WEST of Java. And I like your Hawaiian explanation. That would make sense....

    1. Thanks, Adele. I keep hoping, despite all appearances to the contrary, that the world will turn out to be basically a sane place.
      I think you'd probably call that the triumph of hope over experience.