Thursday, April 20, 2017

In China, Bill is not William (For Bill Gates, Clinton, or me!l)

Bill Sue Brown Married In Taipei Taiwan Christ College Chapel December 1981 Ahoy from Amoy (historic Xiamen, China).

When Sue and I were preparing to be married at Christ College Chapel in Taipei in 1981, we were told the planes from California were often late so we should book two rooms in the Hong Kong YMCA just in case we missed our connecting flight to Taiwan. It seemed like a lot of money for us to spend, but we did it, just in case.

We boarded our shoestring budget 35 hour Los Angeles to Taipei flight (via Seattle, Anchorage and Hong Kong) with World Airways, which went defunct in 2014 (that small airlines was not only always late but also had 5 accidents, four with fatalities). 

And sure enough missed our Taipei flight.

Doctor Bil or Doctor Beer Xiamen University School of Management OneMBANot to worry! We had a YMCA reservation. We were so thankful for the old China Hands' wise advice. We took a cab to the YMCA, exhausted from the flight and lugging foud 70 pound suitcases (I for one am thankful the limit is now 50 pounds) and two 40 pound carry-ons (cake mixes and other things for the wedding).  And the YMCA said they had no reservation for us.

I argued and argued, saying we’d paid by cashier's check, and even been sent a receipt—but I’d forgotten to bring the receipt. So we went looking for another hotel but could not find one we could afford. About 10:00, we returned to the YMCA and just sat on the floor, exhausted, dejected and wondering what to do. 

William Fits the Bill About half an hour later, the desk clerk called to me, “Excuse me, is ‘Bill Brown’ the same as ‘William Brown?’”

So we got our rooms. 
Doctors recommend Schlitz beer 
Even today, Chinese find it hard to believe (and some just refuse to believe) that Bill and William are the same. I tell them that Bill Gates full name is William Gates, Bill Clinton’s full name is William Clinton, etc.—and they just look at me as if to say, “Yeah, pull my other leg.”

Dr. Beer.  In China, in print, my name is William, though when speaking to me Chinese call me Bill—or, more likely, they call me “Beer.” Their “I” sounds like an “ee” and the Southern Chinese can’t speak the “l” so they use an “r”, so my names ends up being Beer. I tried and tried to get them to quit calling me “Dr. Beer.” 

One Christmas, a class gave me a Christmas card, which they’d all signed, saying, “We love you, Dr. Beer!” And they gave me a ribbon-wrapped can of Budweiser.  At least they have a sense of humor. I thanked them—then told them they’d all lost 10 points from their final grade.

Maybe Dr. Beer is not so farfetched. Pearson's Magazine, in Nov. 1908, had an add claiming that doctors recommended to patients Schlitz, the "Beer that made Milwaukee famous."
More doctors recommend camel than any other brand cigarettes 
Doctors Blowing Smoke 1908 was just a tad before my time, but I was born in 1956--the tail end of the 1930s to 1950s period in which one of the biggest cigarette advertising ploys was "Doctors recommend" smoking their brand. To combat the growing suspicion that tobacco was not harmless, almost every brand made that ridiculous claim, assuring us that if people got sick, it was not from the cigarettes but from other causes (lack of menthol, wrong method, etc). The worst was Camel
cigarettes--which paid off its doctor partners with cases of Camels. "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!" Or Lucky Strike's "20,769 physicians say Lucky Strikes are Less Irritating! It's Toasted!" Yeah, and so are smokers' lungs.

Lucky Strike's "20,769 physicians say Lucky Strikes are Less Irritating! It's Toasted!" Yeah, and so are smokers' lungs.So how did I start with Bill versus William and finish with going up in smoke? But maybe that's to be expected, given I've spend over half of my 61 years in a country of 1.4 billion people that has two divisions of citizens: smokers and passive-smokers. And I hate smoking with a passion. My father died of lung cancer--smoked 40 years. Survived the Korean War (even Pork Chop Hill), Vietnam War, specials assignments in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand--but was done in by cigarettes that "doctors recommended," that are more addictive than heroin--and yet legal because there's too much money to stop it. And now China is a nation addicted to tobacco as it was addicted to opium (and tobacco, like opium, was literally forced on China).

Well, enough said. I could write not just a blog but a book on the disgusting tobacco trade (I marvel how even straightlaced Amish can justify growing it), but I'll get back to the subject on hand.

But I'm glad my students call me Dr. Beer than Dr. Smoke.

Enjoy Amoy!

Dr. Bill
School of Management, Xiamen University
Amazon eBook
"Discover Xiamen"

Bill Brown Xiamen University

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