Naming

There are many names for bodies of freshwater in English and in Taiwanese. “Lake” is very grand. “Pond” is more tranquil.  “Reservoir” sounds downright industrial.   Merely changing how something is designated may change how we feel about it.  A reservoir, of course, is created by human action of some kind.  North of Los Angeles, CA there’s Van Norman Lake, which receives water from Owens Valley, hundreds of miles away, for distribution throughout the city.  Before it was built, it wasn’t there. Naming it by its function is inelegant. 

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Photo by L N on Unsplash

It’s like that in Taiwanese, too.  There are many words for bodies of freshwater, at least two of which are used for artificially formed ones to make them seem more appealing. We lived near “bright and clear” lake in Kaohsiung City for 25 years. It was surrounded by parkland and a golf course, but it hadn’t always been there. It wa a reservoir created to hold water for agricultural and industrial use during the 5 decades that Taiwan was a colonial outpost of the Japanese empire. 

That’s also the case of “Sun Moon Lake”, in the central Taiwan mountains. Originally much smaller, the building of dams to raise the water level to increase hydroelectric generating potential have made this “industrial site” into a reservoir, though it is too beautiful for such a name. 

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Photo by T. Bennert  CC  SA  3.0

Calling something how you’d like to think of it, rather than what it is, came into conversation in our house as the weather warmed with the change of seasons. A pair of attached rooms on the front of the house has set me to musing. My long suffering spouse wants to call them “the yellow porch” and “the white porch” based on the color of the paint on the walls of each.  I’m of the mind that this is too much like calling a body of freshwater a “reservoir” when there are other words available.  My suggestion has been for one of them to be “the solarium” and the other “the lanai”.   I’ll settle for “the verandah” though. But I’m not budging from that. 

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Photo by Francesca Tosolini on Unsplash

David Alexander now spends time on the lanai at his stately Holland, MI home after 39 years in Taiwan.

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