Date: Fri, 20 Jan 1995 11:19:46 -0800 From: David Prager Branner Subject: I am a Chinese dialectologist, and am writing to ask for help finding some suitable English words to translate certain Chinese terms. These are things having to do with farm life. I am hoping someone can suggest English words for these things - native English words from an earlier stage of the language, perhaps, or words used in English early in the period of contact with East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures (such as "carabao" for "water buffalo", which is a good, distinctive translation for Chinese _niou_). If not, can anyone perhaps refer me to some glossary or lexicon of early English farming lexicon that is short enough to be browsed (shorter than the Oxford Dictionary of Middle English, e.g.). There are three words I am having trouble with. The first is a resilient pole that is put over the shoulder to carry heavy loads on both ends - two buckets, perhaps, or two large bundles of kindling brush. I have been using "shoulder pole" and "burden pole" and "carrying pole" for this, but people say they don't know what I am talking about. Yet I have seen objects like this in movies about medieval life in England, and I can't believe the directors have simply borrowed them from China. The next is a word having to do with the rice paddy, the Chinese wet field: Chinese build raised footpaths out of mud through their fields, in part to serve as footpaths and in part to demarcate field boundaries. There are many Chinese words for these footpaths - can you suggest an English word that really and truly means the same thing, or something close? The last is also related to the rice paddy, but to the "terraced" rice paddy used in mountainous areas, called a "stepped field" in Chinese. Paddies themselves are horizontal, but at the back (the mountain side) of each paddy is a nearly vertical wall of earth. This bank of earth has a special term in Chinese, and the building, mowing, and maintenance of it is an important part of field labor. Viewed in silhouette, the stepped fields look like this: __ _/ \_ _/ \_ _/ \_ The "_" symbols represent the little tracts of field and the slashes represent the thing I am talking about, the bank or wall at the back of each tract of field. Can you think of a name for this, from somewhere in historical English? Please respond directly to my email or regular mail address, below. I thank you for your time and trouble. Yours sincerely, David Prager Branner, Yuen Ren Society Asian L&L, DO-21, University of Washington Seattle, WA 98195