Chinese English NamesWritten by uln on November 3rd, 2008
Hong Kong - It feels good to travel just for fun once in a while. I flew to HongKong this weekend to say goodbye to a good friend who is leaving Asia, with the firm intention to relax, enjoy the city, and not indulge in any sort of China watching activity.
My only serious mission was to obtain for a Shanghai girlfriend of mine some hi-tech cosmetics of a European brand, which are cheaper down there. Clearly, at 1500RMB+ the package, it was a real bargain.
In spite of my initial plans, I couldn’t help making some observations of this amazing city. The first one is that it is a very vertical place, so much so that all my pictures have an awkward shape which is hard to fit into this column.
It was difficult not to notice also the amount of mandarin spoken in Hong Kong today. Many times on the street I saw chinese speaking mandarin to each other, probably newcomers from mainland China. I don’t know if this is good or bad for Hong Kong, but I found that today it is easer to move around speaking Mandarin than English.
But the most interesting detail I observed, and the one that has ruined my good intentions not to write an entry about Hong Kong, is the creativity of locals when it comes to choosing their English names. Two girls we met over there were named Redana and Monstar. Seriously, we had it written down for us, so there is no possible mistake. A quick search on Google confirms that these first names don’t exist in any known culture. Pure innovation.
However, when it comes to choosing their own names, there is a sector of the mainland Chinese population that is by far in advance of the rest. It is schoolchildren, and in particular boys below 10 year old. Children that age are often given the freedom to chose their own English names, and they make full use of this freedom to let their imagination fly.
While all their female classmates are from an early age naming themselves Sugar and Lovely, the boys are clearly one step ahead.
It is through my friend Annie, who worked as an English teacher in Shanghai, that I came to hear of the wonderful world of Georgie Pan, the old teacher, and his two young students: Polar Bear and A Chinese Boy. Hopefuly, they still have some time to enjoy their childhood names before the ultra-competitive world of chinese education changes them into the likes of Johhny Power.