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Kaitlin Rees

Notes on a parade Pronouns in the preceding poem have been moved into clumsy English, an attempt to reveal the connotations beneath the words in Vietnamese. Such attempts succeed in their failure to translate the nuances of intimacy and (dis)respect, as well as acknowledgement of age, sex, social status, marital status, profession, and income that the following words can connote. Excerpt from the Vietnamese “tôi vẫn còn hão huyền đòi biến đổi thế giới từ những thay đổi tự tôi, nhỏ bé, lố bịch, quan hệ ngôi thứ nhất tôi với một ngôi thứ hai, tôi/ ta/mình/tao/tớ/mình/đằng này… —bạn/mình/cậu/mi/mày/người/ đằng ấy/ấy…, quan hệ tôi và ngôi thứ ba, tôi—hắn/gã/y/thị/ch(n àng/anh ấy/kẻ ấy/cô ấy/ả…, biến hóa bất tận, nguyên lý cốt lõi là tình yêu” “i am still a phantom calling for a changed world in the changes i make myself, tiny little ones, truly absurd, the relationship of a first person i with a second person, i/youme/my self/me fucker/i the close friend/melted selves/this dear here… —you friend/your self/you the close friend/y’all/you fucker/you person/that dear there/that one…, the relationship between me and the third person, i—he/joe schmoe/ johnjane doe/fair ma(ide)n /that elder he/that being/miss/the wench…, endless permutations, the core principle is love”

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Rees

A glossary of Vietnamese pronouns First person tôi: I, as I am alone, used independently of one’s relationship to another, not a word with deep roots in Vietnamese but rather a “civilized” term of modernity introduced as a means to avoid pairings based on gender, status, age, etc. ta: I, as I am never alone in recognizing there are others who are always in my midst mình: I, as in the self of me that can melt into the self of you, used with special friends or romantic partners for whom no real distinction need be made between oneself and the other, can be used in the plural, as when looking in the mirror tao: I, as an old friend, perhaps from school days, who feels comfortable using a potentially rude and derogatory word knowing that it will not be misinterpreted tớ: I, as relaxed with a familiar friend đằng này: I, as I am with flirtatious intimacy, originating from a directional word meaning “road,” literally “this way” Second person bạn: you, as a friend, also used with a stranger who is not really a friend but someone who appears about the same age mình: you, as the self of you I see as the self of me (see above description for mình in first person, as this word blurs the first and second) cậu: you, as a familiar friend, paired with the first person tớ mi: you, as a familiar friend, used provincially in central Vietnam, not often heard in the north (Hanoi) mày: you, as a comfortable old friend who can use a potentially rude word without fear of misinterpretation, paired with tao 78


Notes on a parade

người: you, simultaneously personal and collective, you as a specific person and you as a concept of all other people, also meaning “human,” also meaning “body” đằng ấy: you, as you are with flirtatious intimacy, paired with đằng này, literally “that way” ấy: you, as someone, as anyone, in keeping some distance but friendly enough, can also be used with a stranger in an informal setting Third person hắn: he, a term originally gender neutral but in contemporary usage has come to denote male, used with some indifference/coldness in relation to the other gã: a guy, as in an everyday joe, can be casually derogatory, not showing much respect y: male, a general term to indicate male thị: female, a general term to indicate female ch(n)àng: an invented word combining chàng and nàng, respectively male and female third person pronouns of a literary and dreamy nature, originating in early modern romantic novels anh ấy: him; anh refers to a male who is, or could hypothetically be, of the same age as one’s older brother, in romantic relationships it is the most common term of address that the female uses for the male, ấy here is similar to second person ấy above, literally “that elder brother” kẻ ấy: being, one, individual, literally “that individual,” used to show some distance and unfamiliarity cô ấy: a young lady who is of an age that merits polite respect, literally “that miss,” can be used in a flirtatious way ả: she, archaic term for female, contemporary usage is disrespectful, as with prostitutes, or denoting negative feelings for female outlaws, as in news reports 79

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Notes on a parade  

Notes on a parade  

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