Thursday, May 21, 2009

Love Letters, Hate Mail: Engrish Names

So right now I'm looking at an email with a fabric quotation, from a person named Water!

I don't know how or when this started, but Hongkies and China Mainlanders often have English names. This makes it easy if they are dealing with English speakers. Yes, for me the foreigner, it's easy for me to remember Ivy and Anna and Stephanie. But as it turns out, like everyone's name is Stephanie. And their last name is either Kwong, Lee, or Chan... so they end up with the same name anyway and it's no easier to remember.

I've come across some good ones at work. No one in my office, we all have pretty regular names. But vendors we have worked with have ranged from Heman to Piano to Funni and back to Water. My co-worker told me she once met a Dinosaur! I need to meet a Dinosaur. I've heard of Purple, Xerox, Money, Coffee... if you're a working professional, how are you supposed to take them seriously. Really.

Another one of my co-workers told me her parents don't even know her English name. They don't speak a drop of English, nor would they probably care.

Choosing the names. I guess if you're parents are progressive or well educated or lived abroad or work with foreigners they may give you an English name. I'm pretty sure this is not the norm though. English names are often chosen when they get to school. A teacher has a list and I'm not sure if a name is issued or chosen but there you go. There's your new name.

Let's put aside the funny or Funni names for a second and take a look at the "normal" names they choose. I'm like, really into old school names, but English names in circulation here are pretty ancient. It's like these kids grew up on Wizard of Oz and just assumed Dorothy was a good name. I have never come across so many Dorothys in my life. It's a very common name. I'm uncomfortable with a name being issued when there's no understanding of the context involved.

More common names: Beatrice, Joyce, Rose, Ivy, Ester, Stella, Stanley, David, Henry, Wilson. These names are not just common, they're everywhere.

It's kind of a relief knowing I won't come across a Jaeden or Jayden or Kaedyn or a Jake or a Madysen or Madisyn or whatever these crazy kids are coming up with these days.

I get a kick out of it, I really do. But a name to me is very important. Have you ever met someone who's name didn't quite fit them? I have a friend and we all know her by her Chinese name Wing. That makes sense to me. Just recently and only because I caught it on her work email address did I see that she does in fact have an English name and it's Matilda. Ok, I dig Matilda. It's an awesome name. But it is soooooo not her.

While we're playing this game, I've given myself a Chinese name (nobody outside the inner circle knows this) Wang Ho. My college BFF is Ming Poon. Her bro is Wing Man. Brian is Wang Kok. If you'd like a Chinese name, Fuk Yu is still up for grabs. And there is, indeed, a Fuk Yu building.


Kelvis said...

Everybody Wang Chung tonight!

Monica Rod said...

I'll take Fuk You.. It seems fitting for me.