Monday, February 4, 2013

Logistics and naming


I received a phone call from Andy letting me know that he was quite pleased with the Chinese name that had been given him at the office. The team had written “We select as your last name, the pronunciation close to ‘Walti.  It's one of main Chinese family name and the English meaning is ‘King’, ‘champion’, ‘dynasty’.”  Am I cynical to suspect that someone on his team was trying to solicit a bit of favoritism? Either way, my husband now had an exaggerated sense of grandeur. 

I also wanted a name and luckily, my boss helped me out in this respect:
= outstanding (pronounced zhuo2)
= ethical (prounced de2)
= smart, sensible (pronounced min3)

Interestingly however, I was told that these are predominantly male characters so I wonder whether his choices are complimentary or insulting. The Chinese usually pick their English names as young adults and tend to opt for the names of movie stars (Brad or Jennifer are common) or pick a word representing something that they like (Candy or Money).  Unlike the Western convention, it is frowned upon to name a person after someone else, and the Western practice of naming children after their parents is taboo. Since ones future is determined by a correct name, each Chinese name is individually created and the five elements (wood, earth, water, fire, and stone) are taken into consideration. It was traditionally believed that demons would take the spirits of newborns away so, in order to make them less appealing (and as a result, less susceptible to harm) infants were given derogatory names like Pig Manure or Dog

Chinese culture also favors boys over girls and, whereas having a boy was a cause for celebration, a girl's birth would cause little fanfare if not downright disappointment. As a result, it would not be uncommon to find a girl named "Little Mistake" or "Wishing for a Brother". 

So, my teacher has a boyfriend named Miracle and my friend a colleague named Volcano; the later claims to have a bad temper. My friend taught someone named Jitty-Victor, a barista at Starbucks was called Cocaine and the neighbor is Rainbow. The person serving icecream at the Ikea food stand was, ironically, Fondue, and Royal was a young man working at an antique furniture store.  Another friend had a professional colleague named Ginger Bush (think about this for a moment to fully understand) and a client chose Tuna Yu.

My favorite story is when my friend was interviewing a college grad for a junior position, and she explains this is dialogue format:

Colleague: So what is your name?
Interviewee: My English name is Carbon Dioxide
C: What an interesting name, why did you choose that?
I: Well, carbon dioxide is the most misunderstood gas, and I sometimes feel misunderstood.
C: Interesting, so how do you spell it?
I: CO2 (Wang)

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