Author’s Note: Thanks to feathers for the beta, and Medie and DebC, who almost deserve co-authorship for helping me overcome my writer’s block. 🙂
The beginning of wisdom is learning to call things by their proper names.
–Ancient Chinese Proverb
“So what’s my name mean?”
Hoshi almost dropped her fork at the unexpected voice. Looking up, she stared in surprise at Commander Tucker, who was standing at her table with a tray in his hand. He shrugged. “You’re into languages, I thought maybe you might know about words too. Names ‘n all.”
The linguist blinked. “Don’t you usually eat with the Captain and T’Pol?” she asked.
Trip grimaced. “Yeah, well, a guy can only take so much Vulcan dinner conversation.”
“They make dinner conversation?”
“Oh, sure. If you feel like pullin’ teeth.”
She laughed. “Why waste time talking when you can finish your food faster if you don’t? It’s not logical.”
He just snorted. Pulling out the other chair, he dropped into it with the same casual ease he applied to almost everything and set his tray down on the table. “So, do you?”
“Do I what?” Hoshi tried to look innocently confused.
The commander frowned knowingly at her. “Now yer just avoidin’ the question.”
She ducked her head to hide the color rising slowly in her face. Damn–why couldn’t she seem to have a conversation with him anymore without blushing?
“Well?” When she finally looked up again, she saw him watching her, blue eyes twinkling with mischief. “C’mon, Star, I just know you’ve got it locked up in that head of yours somewhere.”
“Okay, yes, I do dabble occasionally in etymology–” she finally confessed.
Trip looked puzzled. “I thought Cutler was the entomologist.”
“Not entomology, etymology–the study of words, their histories and origins.”
“Oh.” She got a smug satisfaction out of the fact that now he was turning slightly red. He speared something on his plate, his ears aflame and his gaze avoiding hers. A second later he looked up sheepishly and gave her an embarrassed grin. “I guess I just made a jackass of myself, didn’t I?”
“Not really. It’s not something I would expect an engineer to know.”
The chief engineer laughed. “Now that’s what I call a backhanded insult. And you’re still dodgin’ my question.”
She was, and she knew it, but how could she tell him that Charles meant–?
“So are you gonna tell me or aren’t ya?”
Still blushing furiously, she finally blurted out: “‘Manly.’ If you must know, Charles is French for ‘manly.’ The name is Teutonic in origin, but it comes to us through the French,” she stumbled on lamely, trying to distance herself from that embarrassing piece of information.
Trip’s grin quadrupled in size. “No kiddin’? Guess Mom and Dad really knew what they were about then, when they pinned it on me, huh?”
His voice was teasing, and Hoshi found herself turning an even deeper shade of scarlet. She wanted to shoot back a biting retort, but couldn’t truthfully say she thought the name didn’t apply. Of course it didn’t help that he was practically flirting with her.
“So what about Tucker? Y’know anything ’bout what it means?”
The linguist opened her mouth, shut it again, and glanced back down at her plate. Frustration blossomed into the perfect opportunity for revenge at the sight of her half-eaten meal.
Looking up at him, she smirked, let her eyes drop to his own heavily-laden plate, then lifted them again to meet his triumphantly.
“Tucker. Australian for food.”
Trip glared at her. “Now that’s just mean.”
“And pestering me until I gave you what you wanted wasn’t, Commander Manly Food the Third?” she retorted.
The commander roared with laughter, drawing the curious attention of everyone else in the mess hall to their table. At least, everyone who hadn’t already been sneaking furtive glances in their direction.
“You got me there,” he admitted, still amused. “I’m like one of those whaddya call ’em that you learn about in twentieth-century history and culture…Televee dinners.”
“Hungry Man,” she chimed in, remembering a unit they’d studied in one of her own classes, on twentieth-century advertising.
“Yeah.” He grinned again, and even though her cheeks warmed once more under his friendly eyes, this time she didn’t seem to mind. “Hungry Man.”
They both chuckled for a few minutes before Hoshi admitted, “You take some getting used to, Commander.”
“And you don’t?” he shot back. His eyes sobered then. “On the one hand, you give yourself ’bout a tenth of the credit you deserve for helpin’ make this mission a success, like you’re afraid to believe in yourself, but on the other you’ve got the guts to argue with the Cap’n himself if you disagree with him. Half the time, I dunno what to make of you.”
She dropped her eyes again. “I’m sorry.”
“Hey. That was a compliment.”
Her mouth formed a small, surprised ‘o.’ “It was?”
Trip nodded. “Sometimes I wish we got to work together more, y’know?”
The ensign nodded slowly. She did know, but she was surprised to find he felt that way too.
“I like watchin’ that mind of yours in action, and I like even more when you get that look on your face…like for a second y’got it through your skull that y’done good.” His smile was warm and affectionate. “One of the things I’m proudest of that I’ve done since gettin’ this assignment was convincin’ you to stick it out.”
“Really?” She hoped her voice didn’t sound as much like a squeak to him as it had to her.
“‘Course, I admit, part of the reason for that’s selfish–I figure that way I can take partial credit for any time you keep us from completely trippin’ over our own feet with some new culture.” He winked conspiratorially at her.
“So then you admit you’re just using me,” she teased back.
“Like right now–you’re using me to get out of having to eat with T’Pol.” Hoshi knew it was unkind to have a laugh at the Vulcan’s expense, particularly when she wasn’t even present to defend herself, but something about Trip’s reaction seemed to overrule that instinct.
“Damn right. Didn’t wanna lose my appetite.”
“And we can’t have that, can we, Hungry Man?”
The engineer grinned again. “Speakin’ of T’Pol, what’s her name mean?”
The linguist shrugged. “I don’t know.”
He frowned. “I thought you were fluent in Vulcan.”
“I am. Or at least as fluent as a human can be. But you know how they are–not exactly forthcoming about private things like that.”
The commander scowled. “Yeah, I know.”
Hoshi felt a twinge of guilt. A little light-hearted teasing was one thing, but she didn’t want to actively contribute to Trip’s dislike of the Vulcans. “And they’re not the only ones. A lot of Earth cultures have similar customs.”
He looked at her, surprised. “No kiddin’?”
She nodded. “In Korea, you never address someone who is your elder by their given name. Instead you would call them by a title–‘grandfather,’ ‘uncle,’ ‘aunt’ or something like that. Other cultures believe that names have power, and if you give someone your true name it gives them a certain degree of metaphysical control over you. In a way they’re right–names do have power. I mean, you can tell a lot about the relationship between two people just based on how they address each other.”
Trip nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, guess you can.”
“I could probably tell you what the names of most of the rest of the crew mean, though,” she admitted with a grin. “Except for Phlox–my Denobulan is still a little shaky.” Her face colored with that statement, remembering the faux pas she’d committed the last time she’d tried to address the doctor in his native language.
“Oh yeah?” His lips quirked upwards and his blue eyes flooded with mischief. “What about the Cap’n?”
She pursed her lips, searching her memory for the information. “Jonathan’s from the Hebrew ‘Yochanan.’ It means ‘gift of God.'”
“Yer kiddin’–you mean if Jon ever gets it in his head that he’s God’s gift to women I’m gonna have to agree with him?” Trip sounded both incredulous and amused.
Hoshi almost choked on the bite she’d just stuck in her mouth. “I never thought of it that way,” she admitted once she’d finally managed to stop shaking with laughter long enough to swallow.
“What about Archer?”
“Archer just means ‘archer,'” she shrugged.
“So he’s not God’s gift to women, he’s God’s gift to the bow and arrow,” the chief engineer corrected, his eyes gleaming even more mischievously now.
“It makes sense,” she argued. “He is a straight shooter.”
Trip laughed again. “So he is. So, we’ve got you, Star, me, Hungry Man, and Captain Straight Shooter. Who else?”
“Well, Malcolm is either a servant or follower of St. Columba or Colum, depending on what translation route you follow…”
“Malcolm, a servant? Guess we know now whose mama and daddy didn’t read the baby books…” He let his drawl thicken with humor.
She suppressed a smile. “It gets better. Reed is Old English for ‘red-haired.'”
He blinked. “Okay, now that’s just way off-base. My hair’s redder’n Malcolm’s and that’s not sayin’ much.”
Still laughing, she pointed out several other crew members, naming them and defining the names. Trip had caustic comments for each of them, but when she got to Ensign Elizabeth Cutler he looked incredulously amused all over again. “‘Devoted to God’ and ‘maker of knives,'” he repeated what she had just said. “So we’ve got a Captain who’s God’s gift to archery and an entomologist who’s a knife-maker’s gift to God…and neither one of ’em’s the armory officer. Gawd.”
By this time Hoshi’s stomach muscles were starting to hurt from laughing so hard. Trust Trip to put a whole new perspective on knowledge she’d had for years but never really applied to anything.
“At least our helmsman is ‘from the crossroads,'” he continued with a sigh of mock-weariness. “So somebody on this ship knows what the hell he’s doin.'”
“You realize,” she giggled, “that you and I could now discuss just about anyone on this ship in front of their faces without them having a clue.”
The notion seemed to appeal, as both the chief engineer’s eyes and his grin widened. “Hey, you’re right. We could. Cap’n Straight Shooter, Lieutenant Red-haired Servant, Ensign Crossroads, Ensign Pious Knife-Maker…” He chuckled. “I kinda like that idea.”
She shrugged. “There are advantages to knowing more than one language.”
“I’m startin’ to get that,” Trip agreed. “No wonder you’re so keyed up about it. It’s pretty interestin’ stuff.”
Hoshi tried to keep her mouth from dropping open in surprise. “You mean that?”
“I’m not just humorin’ you, if that’s what you mean,” he shook his head. “I mean it. Kinda makes me wish I’d paid more attention in Spanish class back home.”
“Spanish?” she snorted. He already knew what she thought about Spanish.
The chief engineer glared at her. “It may be easy as pie for you, Star, but I’m a manual labor kinda guy. Unless you think you could teach me.”
“I’d be willing to try,” she suggested tentatively.
“You would?” This time it was his turn to look surprised.
The linguist nodded. “Not many people on board would want to learn. If you do…”
“Yeah.” He smiled. “I’d like that.”
Kenyon, Sherrilyn and others. The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. 1994: Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnatti, Ohio.