Library Note:
Gwoyeu Romatzyh
21 August 2018

¶ In working on a new section of the writing project, I am marshalling my Chinese library from various shelves in the bookroom. I don’t know what I’ll need it for, exactly, but that’s really why I’m doing it: I need to have a look at all the books, even if they’re just piled up. 

For some reason lost to history, the book that I’ve had the longest, How to Write and Study Chinese Characters, by W Simon, uses a romanization system, devised in the Twenties, and promptly adopted by the Nationalist Chinese government, that indicated the various tones on which intelligibility depends with Roman letters only. Gwoyeu Romatzyh never caught on anywhere, not even, over the long run, in Taiwan. Because I wasn’t really interested in learning how to speak ChineseI didn’t pay it very much attention. It certainly looks strange now (“charng”?), given the universal adoption of Hanyu pinyin, a system that relies on four accent marks and that I, for one, find much easier to deal with — even though I’m still not speaking Chinese. 

I would have had no practicable way of finding out, back in the early Seventies, that Ernest Julius Walter Simon was a a refugee from the Nazis. 

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