Monday, September 26, 2011

A Note on Names

The other day one of my second graders decided to change his English name to Monkey. His name was Ian (which sounded a lot like his Chinese name, Ay-An) but he could not for the life of him seem to remember it. So we decided to change his name to something he could remember. We tried a whole list of common English names and then we tried a few theme names: Bob (as in "SpongeBob") and Harry (as in "Harry Potter"). He was not impressed. Then he decided that he wanted to christen himself "Monkey" and no amount of arguing or logic or flat out telling him "that's not a name!" could dissuade him. What can I say? He possessed that type of inexorable stuborness that can only be found in a second grade boy.

The point is, English names in Taiwan can sometimes be a little bit... off color. At least by the standards of those of us who actually come from English speaking countries. I'm not sure where the kids come up with some of these names (some aren't even real words, never mind names) but, as far as I've been able to deduct, I think are 3 main contributing factors. First, pretty much all Chinese names actually mean something. As in, unlike our names, Chinese names are made up of one or more actual words that can be used in a conversation (this is in part because there are a limited number of Chinese characters available). Second, the kids pick their names as, well, kids. Third, spelling is kind of an issue, so sometimes a kid will forget how to spell his/her name and, over the year, mutations inevitably occur. For example, at the beginning of the year, I had a Joos and a Jell in one of my classes. When I pointed out that those were not real names, the kids shyly told me that their English names were really Joss and Jeff but both had forgotten how to spell them over the summer.

So, amidst all the Johnnys, Andys, Mikes, and Allens, here are some of the more interesting names that I've come across so far at my schools:

  • Blue
  • Copy
  • Sweety
  • Chunny (this one might win the weirdest name competition)
  • Yoyo
  • Anelia (I think her name probably started out as Amelia)
  • Osborn
  • Key
  • Cliff
  • Popo (whenever his name is called in class, all the kids inevitably break into chants of "poo poo") 
  • O'neil
  • Mincher (Apparently she had been given several English names over the years so she decided to smush all of them together. When I explained to her that "you can't do that," she decided to just go with "Cher")
  • Amma
  • Rite
  • Ming
  • Coco
  • Eder
  • Hans
  • Rabby
  • Queena
  • Cherry
  • Shaller
  • Herry
  • Yuni (I'm pretty sure this is a character in Final Fantasy)
  • Tino
  • Rex (which, for the record, I think is an awesome name)
  • Kent
And, while this doesn't exactly qualify as a strange name, there are a lot of kids named Leo. Like an excessive number of Leos. In one of my classes there are 20 kids and 3 Leos (we've had to nickname them Leo 1-3). There are also a fair number of girls named Angel, Candy, or Kitty at my schools.

And stuff like this is why I find names to be a never ending source of amusement.

No comments:

Post a Comment