On Thu, Oct 26, 2000 at 10:27:37AM +0000, Adam Walker wrote:
> I find the last-name-of-married-women thing very interesting.  Western
> cultures change the womans last name because historically viewed the woman
> as the property of her husband.

Well, as I mentioned in another message, I think I'll stick with the
convention of using "<name> the son/daughter of <parent's name>" and
"<name> the spouse of <spouse's name>". The possessive stative used for
the latter works both ways, so both the woman is the property of the
husband *and* the husband is her property -- it is mutual.

> I used to think the Eastern custom showed more respect for the woman until I
> read somewhere (now long forgotten) that the Chinese woman did not change
> her name because she was not viewed as a true part of the family.  She was

um... there *are* Eastern customs where it is the complete opposite -- the
woman is the head of the household; men pick up their wives' names when
married; the daughter gets the inheritance not the son; etc.. IIRC this
happens in some aboriginal tribes before the Malay/Indonesian settlement,
in what is today's Malaysia/Indonesia area. (Or it could be the early
ancestors of the Malays/Indonesians who do this -- I don't remember

> some kind of foreign interloper in her father-in-law's house.  As proof
> examples were offered of the woman's status in the household and the fact
> that all relatives on the mother's side are prefixed with "wai" meaining
> "outside" or "foreign".
> It seems women couldn't get a decent break whichever way the cookie
> crumbled.  Still don't get the best of breakes.

Hmm. This really depends on how the close the family (or families) is. You
must keep in mind that Eastern culture is very much more family-centric
than Western culture -- 1st cousins are often regarded as siblings, and
it's not rare for people to know 2nd or 3rd cousins intimately (though I
think the family tree relationship is arbitrarily bounded somewhere around
the 4th cousin). The way *I* understand the use of "wai4" for the mother's
relatives is because the mother's relatives are not blood-relatives (with
respect to the father's generation, that is), hence they are the "outside"
relatives. But I don't think it's intended to isolate or regard as foreign
the mother's side of the family.

Of course, it's still a male-centric system, I'm not denying that. But you
have to understand it in the context of Chinese culture; the implication
of using a word like "wai4" (outer) isn't quite what Western culture would
interpret it. In Chinese culture, the fact that somebody can call you by
some term or another (cousin, uncle, aunt, etc.), even if it's something
very distant like a 2nd cousin's spouse's relative, is grounds for
familial favor -- you're regarded as someone in the family and you'll be
very well-treated, as opposed to the stranger whom nobody cares about.
Very different from Western culture, where friends often are more intimate
than family members outside the immediate family (sometimes even more
intimate than the immediate family).