It wasn’t until I heard the expression “caminar mas que Kung Fu” (lit: walk farther than Kung Fu) for about the third time that I thought to ask someone just who or what Kung Fu was, and why he walked so much. It’s not that I’m not interested in language. On the contrary. I spend so much time looking at language that sometimes I miss the point entirely. So to combat that, sometimes I just let thing slide and ask about them later, or not at all. I have kind of a rule with is called “interesting or the rule of threes.” If something is very interesting to me, or if I hear it three times, I will chase it down. Otherwise, people say things near me all the time that I don’t quite know the genesis of, and I’m pretty mellow about it, though I can hear the file cabinet of my subconsicious creaking open and the scritch of a pencil against my mental index cards (white, lined), even as I follow the conversation into the future.
Well you can thank Abby for my recent remembering of Kung Fu, due to a recent blog post of hers where she talks about Chilean expressions. One day three of my friends and I decided to go for a walk. In the end, we walked up to the Parque Bicentenario and most of the way back downtown, including a little amble around the park while we were there. When we got back, I “mapped my run” (except this was a walk) and discovered that it was on the order of 20ish kilometers, or about 12 miles. I later commented to one of the saga-walk participants that I love to go out on walks, but not necessarily such long ones.
And there it was again. “Sip, si ese día caminamos mas que Kung Fu!” (yep, that day we walked a hell of a long way).
So I asked. It turns out Kung Fu was a tv program on in the United States from 1972-1975 that featured an orphaned Shaolin priest and martial arts master wandering the Western United States in search of his lost half-brother. The kicker here is that I have never seen the show, not even in syndication, but here in Chile, enough people have seen it (in reruns, I imagine, given the age of the people involved) to generate this expression, which seems mildly racist on its face, but Chileans disavow most knowlege of any presence of racism, so I’m not really sure how to handle this particular question, other than to avoid it.
So there you have it. Sometimes I walk more than an allegedly half-Chinese fictional character portrayed by a white man who existed on television in the 1970s, and into later years in Chile. I’m beginning to understand the shorthand, even though I still probably won’t use it.