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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Liger and tigon

Jaime R. Vergara

After our whole day outing at Shenyang’s Bird Island, we took another day off during the dragon boat festival holidays to revisit the Siberian tiger drive-through 30-km outskirt of Shenyang. North of Harbin in Heilongjiang Province operates an open Siberian tiger park where the gawkers are penned in moving vehicles driven along paths where the cats normally reside and wander. (Before the alluvial plains along the Yangtze was fully settled, Sung literature depicts tigers roaming as far south as Fujian.)

When the Guaipo Shenyang Park opened last year, we saw gaunt and emaciated royal felines of the Manchurian plains, perhaps resentful of their confinement in limited quarters. Fierce members of the Felidae family were in three electrically charged high-fenced enclosures with remote-controlled rolling gates to allow vehicles with tourist penned inside iron bar-armored buses to click their cameras away.

We learned a few months later that the camp ran out of food. The harsh winter hard on the morale of incarcerated felines resulted in massive deaths. We went back to see how the survivors fared this summer. This time, the proprietors were prepared. For a dollar-and-a-half (10 RMB), customers can buy a quarter kilo of fresh bloody meat to feed the tigers!

Ever the language instructor, we noticed immediately the new words that intruded into our vocab database. We were ushered to the liger and tigon.

We are familiar with the mule (male donkey and female horse) and the hinny (male horse and female donkey), but were ignorant of the liger (a cross between a male lion and a female tiger), and the tigon (male tiger and female lion), which are known to be rare but real. The inter-specie issue is sterile.

We saw also a white tiger from two regressive genes among the ferocious Bengali tigers penned in the camp. Thought to be rare and unproductive, it, however, looked impressive on its white mane. Though the whole camp is predominantly for the Siberian herd, the Bengali in separate pens take on a secondary presence, along with the jaguar, the leopard, and the lion.

There were smaller and less vicious cats, wild dogs like the hyena and a scrawny duo, and this being China, the well-groomed Pekinese. The drawing corral for mamas and their tots (for a fee to enter and have picture taken) were two playful young tigers. An infant monkey rode horsey on their backs, all innocent and unmindful of their animosities when grown, nor the human’s intrusive presence.

The fowls were in one enclosure that had flocks of colorful chickens and ducks, swans and geese, peacocks and cranes, among others. Another enclosure had rabbits and squirrels, and all sizes of rodents that entertained the crowds when they fought over the proffered food. The S. American camelid of the Andes, the llama, lived with the Siberian sitka deers of the brown polka-dotted skins. They, too, were favored animals for feeding fresh green leaves on branches by the toddlers.

Juvenile boys and their papas put meat on a stick to the huge non-Siberian cats in pens, teasing them with the food to elicit ferocious growls. But the black bears got the mamas’ attention. There were two kinds: the lazy tiny ones, which I thought existed only as imaginary creatures in comic books and movie cartoons. There are really live ones who just lounge about in their high-perched turrets basking in the sun. The mamas and their entourage delighted in the second kind, the bigger bears with apples on a stick. The black bears stood on their hind legs and did a full pirouette before extending their paws for a sliced half or quarter of an apple.

It took two circuitous buses to get to the place, taking a full hour each, so two hours going and two hours returning took more than half of our planned time for the day. We had a full two-hour walk around, and when clouds shrouded the sun, the lounging tigers finally sat up majestically at their knolls, and roared like the royals of the range they were. We got the camera clicking from a distance until the battery power called it quits.

T’was the "liger" and "tigon" words that got us on the etymological train of thought. We tend to be formal on rules and proper usage in language training, and the Chinese students want to follow Australian, British, Canadian, NZ and U.S. leads. SAU adheres to the formal language of scientific research, metaphorical phrases, and philosophical verbiage on students’ essays. We go proletarian, blessing the gifts of ChEnglish and/or EnglisCh, as long as they are effectively used.

We go by the numbers. There is one Chinese for every five persons in the planet. As use is the primary criteria for meaning, EnglisCh can affect the lingo’s evolution rather than the other way around. And why not? On the southside of Chicago, the street lingo has no relations to the English spoken at the neighboring universities.

Lidar (a portmanteau of "light" and "radar") shot from the air by archaeologists just discovered the massive and sophisticated urban landscape around Angkor Wat in the Siem Reap province of Kampuchea. Acronym’d "Laser Imaging, Detection and Ranging," we get words like this all the time at the university! But, obviously, this will have to wait for another telling.

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