What's In A Name?

by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2245)

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The Bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise was relatively quiet. Captain Kirk was at the Science Station, having an easy conversation with his First Officer. Lieutenant Uhura at Communications hummed softly to herself as she went over the day's logs. Jock Thompson sat at Engineering, coordinating some tests with Mr. Scott. It was near the end of the day's shift, and at the Helm console, Lieutenant Sulu was contemplating a relaxing evening with Yeoman Tamura, when the voice of the ship's navigator interrupted his thoughts.

"Where did you get a name like Sulu?" Ensign Pavel Chekov asked.

Sulu turned his chair slightly, his hand going to rest on his hip. "What did you say?" he questioned.

"I mean no offense," the Russian replied. "I was simply wondering where you got a name like Sulu."

Puzzled, the helmsman shrugged. "That's what my father and mother named me," he said.

"Yes, obviously," Chekov continued, "but where did the name come from?"

"Come from?" Sulu repeated, his bafflement giving way to annoyance. "Pavel, what are you talking about?"

The navigator frowned. "You are of Japanese descent, aren't you?"


"And your proper surname is Takeda, which is a very old Japanese clan name?"

"Yeah," Sulu repeated warily.

"And the Japanese language has no value for the letter 'L'?"

The third "yeah" was drawn out as Sulu tried to fathom what the Russian was getting at.

"Well, I have been doing linguistic research, and given these facts, it seems unlikely that a Japanese family would name their son something which contains a letter that does not exist in the Japanese language. So..."

"Where did I get a name like Sulu," the Asian finished, the light beginning to dawn. He relaxed, giving his helm partner a wry grin. "My mother's part Korean."

Chekov's frown deepened. "Your mother's name is Midori. That is Japanese."

"Yeah, but her mother was part Korean."

"Part? And so her mother's mother was..."

"Part Korean, yeah."

Chekov seemed stymied. "How far back in your genealogy does this..."

"Taint?" Sulu suggested with a deprecating smile. "Stigma? Defect? Contamination?"

"...difference go?" the Russian completed.

"Well, my mother's about one-thirty-second Korean. You figure it out."

Sulu chuckled to himself as he imagined the Russian doing backwards mathematical fractions in his head.

"That would mean your Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother was Korean," Pavel said at last.

Sulu nodded. "Something like that.

After a moment's pause, during which he was obviously trying to digest this information, Chekov took a deep breath. "And so 'Sulu' is a Korean name? I am not conversant with the details of the Korean language..."

"Don't know any Koreans, huh?" the helmsman teased.

"None to speak of," the navigator returned, nonplussed.

"I was named after my maternal great-great-great-great-grandfather - sort of," was Sulu's response.

"Grandfather," Chekov muttered, as if that would put his calculations off.

"His name was Liu-soon," Sulu said. "And he died on June 18th, which is the date I was born. My family is Buddhist, and so we believe in reincarnation. My Great-Grandmother consulted an astrologer..."

"Astrologer?" the Russian interrupted. "Isn't that originally Middle-Eastern in origin?"

"Not Chinese astrology."

The consternation was clear on Chekov's open features.


"Chinese, Korean, Japanese, we borrowed a lot," Sulu grinned. "Anyway, the astrologer did some charts or threw some I-Ching - don't ask - or something and proclaimed that I did indeed hold the spirit of her great-grandfather. And so she begged, pleaded, cajoled and finally threatened my father with some ancient Korean curse unless I was named for him. But my grandmother - my father's mother - wouldn't hear of such a thing, so my mother suggested a compromise. Not Liu-soon, but...

"Sulu," Pavel said.

"My grandmother pronounces it 'soo-roo,'" the helmsman confided, "when she isn't calling me 'boy' or 'wretch' or "you!'"

The Russian sat back in his chair, nodding sagely. "Thank you for being so candid with me, Sulu," he said.

"Glad to help," the lieutenant returned. And burst into laughter a moment later when the navigator cleared his throat and said,

"Now about I-Ching...."

The End

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