Zhan Tianyou

Culture, Language

The other day I was giving a talk in which I was discussing David Byrne’s defense of Powerpoint during which I said to my students: You know, the lead singer of Talking Heads.” As I looked at their blank faces I realized there was no way I could expect them to know of the band Talking Heads. Celine Dion they know, but Talking Heads is another story. (Although, were I given the choice, I personally would much rather listen to a butchered version of Psycho Killer” than a perfect rendition of Power of Love” the next time I’m dragged to a KTV.)

But today the tables were turned. Ms. Lin at the library referred me to Ms. Zhan. When I asked the name again, to be sure I had it right, she replied: Zhan. You know, like Zhan Tianyou.” I didn’t know, but as soon as I was done I ran up to my office and looked it up in Wikipedia.

Zhan Tianyou (April 26, 1861 — April 24, 1919) (Traditional Chinese: 詹天佑; Simplified Chinese: 詹天佑; pinyin: Zhān Tiānyòu) was a distinguised Chinese railroad engineer. He was educated in the United States of America and was the Chief Engineer responsible for construction of the Imperial Peking-Kalgan Railway, the first railway constructed in China without foreign assistance.

Of course, how could I have not known! But then I didn’t go to school in Taiwan under the KMT where everyone used to be tested on the location of every railway station in China…

Thank god for Wikipedia!

PS: If you are in my Multimedia class, you might want to read this!

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