Go Lake People! Go Calves!

kobe.pngThings look bad for LA's pro basketball team, down 0-3 in the playoffs to Dallas. An American friend in Beijing sent in this report while watching Dirk Nowitzki and his Dallas teammates stage a dramatic last-minute surge last night to win and put LA in a historically insurmountable bind. He writes:

>>I'm watching the Lakers vs the Mavericks on CCTV, which in China means watching the Lake People vs the Calves.  [The Lakers are 湖人, literally "lake persons," and the Mavs are 小牛, "calves" or even more literally "little cows."]

Lake People is wrong but there probably aren't many Americans who know why the LA NBA team is called the "Lakers" either.*  But calling the Mavericks "the Calves" completely misses the meaning of the name.  The majority of Americans probably don't know the origin of the term 'maverick' -- a calf that has lost its mother, forced to go its own way -- but they do know what the word means today, and why Dallas chose this term as the name of their team.  This is especially interesting right now because the name 'maverick' seems to be so closely associated with Ai Weiwei, in the West, at least.<<

*I grew up with the Los Angeles Lake People of Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, but within my time of grade school consciousness they had moved to LA from their previous home in Minnesota, the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. Thus their name. And while I totally lack enthusiasm for the current Laker star known to Chinese fans as 科比 ("Kebi," above) and for the modern Lake People dynasty in general, I suppose that in the interest of avoiding a blowout and having a more competitive series, if I watch their next game against the Little Cows of Dallas I will have to say: 湖人 加油 -- "lake people, add oil!" or "Go Lakers!"
Note: on some browsers, these Chinese characters render fine. On others, the ones for Kobe and 'jia you'/"let's go!" are gibberish. Not sure exactly why, since I've used them before on this site. Another of the combined mysteries of Movable Type and the Chinese lexicon. At least the Lake People and the Calves come through OK.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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