Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mom's writing

I asked Mom to write her name in Chinese and Korean. For comparative purposes, I did the same myself. The results are below. It's said that, if you're perceptive, you can tell a lot about a person's state of mind from how they write-- a conviction widely held in Asia, and which expresses itself, somewhat differently, as graphology (I hesitate to call it "the science of graphology") in the West.

Top row: I wrote Mom's name, Kim Suk Ja, in Chinese (金淑子). Read it from top to bottom as a column. The next two columns, Mom (1) and Mom (2), are Mom's attempts at writing her own name.

Bottom row: I wrote Mom's name in Hangeul (김숙자), the 24-letter Korean alphabet.* Mom's attempt is next to mine.

You can look at the above and be saddened, I suppose, by the obvious deterioration in Mom's ability to write her own name, but that's only if you use a cancer-free Mom as the standard of comparison. Look more closely at the bottom Chinese character for "Mom (2)," and you'll see that Mom executed a nearly perfect "Ja," despite how clouded her brain is. Note, too, that her writing still manages to look more organic and natural than mine does: I write Chinese and Hangeul like a foreigner, and that's pretty obvious to trained eyes. Mom's strokes retain much of their Mom-ness. When I look at her writing, my interpretation of the script is: she's still in there. She's still with us. She's still fighting.

*Note to expats: if you're one of the people who say "I can't speak Hangeul," you need to stop that nonsense right now. Hangeul is written Korean; the word geul means "writing." Hangukmal is "Korean language"-- literally, "Korean speech" (mal = "speech, talk").


1 comment:

Charles said...

Amen on the hangeul/hangugeo distinction. But it's not just expats--you would not believe how many Koreans I've encountered who can't make the distinction either. Or maybe you would.