Picking an English Name in China


You thought we Americans picked some crazy names for our children, well in China if the person didn’t have a name picked for them in primary school they ask one of us foreign teachers to pick one for them.  Which for us in a joy in its self because we can name them whatever we want, kind of like they are our own kids.    However, there is a time when the student has chosen his or her own name by searching on the internet or the supermarket.

I wanted to share the top 10 crazy names that students have picked for themselves…that I begged them to change before they went abroad.  However, they feel these names were just perfect… enjoy!

10.  KaKa (pronounced like GAGA as in the Lady herself) I quickly told her that this is what we call the action we do in the bathroom when we are children and convinced her to change it to ..KiKi…. thank goodness.

9.  Flying I told this young lady that her name was a verb and she said I know..I am flying… I just stared at her.

8. Yoyo This is a woman who works with me in the office.. she wanted me to name her daughter and I gave her several beautiful choices.. but she stayed with ..Little Yoyo… i told her it was a child’s toy..but she just laughed.

7. Jason This is the most popular name in China I think.  I have over 8 Jasons in my classes and when I meet new Chinese men they all have this name. It isn’t strange but it is strange how they all have it.

6. Anson This name was  for one of the Chinese teachers, choosen by herself of course.. I asked her if she meant Aniston… for Jennifer.. which still would have been crazy for a first name, but she said no… who knows?

5. Chierra I am not sure where this name came from but she claims that it was giving to her from an English man when she was small.  I can help but think they are pronuncing or spelling something wrong.

4. Bean This beauty was chosen by a girl who loves Mr. Bean.  I informed her that Bean was his surname not his first name but she insisted on keeping it. Who am I to question someone that wants to be named after a Legume.

3. Cherry This is also a very popular name for a girl along with Apple… If one more person walks in with the name of a fruit… I am going to go crazy.

2. Double This young men choose his own name.  Enough said. Enough said.

1. Hysteria. This young girl thought this was the name of a flower. Which it is but.. the alternative meaning stands out more.  I couldn’t stop laughing. She was trying to show her high level English.

All every day someone comes in with a name we just can’t understand or believe from Kobe to Young.… from Vita to Laughing….it makes for an exciting day. I still cannot get past the verb names.

When chosing a name for our Chinese friends we need to keep in mind that it should be easy to pronounce and easy to spell… we kind of have to stick to one or two-syllable words.   So.. Laquisha and Veronica are out….

I am running out of names to name these people.. Any suggestions?

until next time…

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25 thoughts on “Picking an English Name in China

  1. smileyface

    I think the names they give themselves are quite endearing, it’s one of the few ways they truely get to express their individualities, so I never make them change their names. I do explain to them that names like cherry (esp cherri) or candy are mainly taken up by women of questionable proffessions in America and that mose parents will not name their childen those names for that reason.

    My top favorite has to be Shrek, he even looked a little like Shrek with a wider face, and thick features; he ended up being a great student. And Confidence, who said her name with such poise as to perfectly embody her name. It made me smile every time.

    On a side note, I met an Obama once, who told a sad tale of how when he interviewed for the job, they told him his English name — which was gene or Greg or something completely unquestionably normal — meant KaKa in the local dialect, and that they wanted him to change his name. They then went further and told him he should take the name Obama because it would make the parents happy. He didn’t end up getting hired as a teacher, and had to work in the marketing department instead, poor soul.

  2. Lily

    The best laugh I had was when a girl introduced herself as “microbe”. Yes, “microbe”. But hey, it’s quite creative.

  3. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – my favourite student name is…wait for it…Semen.
    Yes, it started out as Simon, but was mispronounced so often that the spelling even got changed at some point. It makes me giggle every week when I teach at that school! 🙂

      1. It was certainly a shock when they handed me the class list! I make a concerted effort to say his name PROPERLY as much as I can in that class, hoping that others will pick it up. Maybe if I can change it now, while he’s still in primary school (eeep! I know, right?!), then later, it won’t be an issue.

        But damn, it IS funny! 🙂

  4. From Maria…”Loved your blog today!..Kaka…need I say more. In Ireland there is an expression that goes

    I am flying it which means that the person who said it is doing well or finding whatever task they are doing easy=D so you can imagine how hard I was laughing at the name Flying.

    Name suggestions that I could think of for girls: Kendra, Nicki, Heidi, Melanie, Maya, Sasha or Nina and for boys: Connor, Obama(yeah why not;-), bound to be a popular name), Bobby, Tyson and Ross. Thats what I just thought of…hope they help. If I think of any..I’ll be back;-)”

  5. Very funny and interesting.

    The Japanese invented a syllabic alphabet just for foreign nouns and names: Katakana. You have also Chinese characters in Japan (Kanji) and you can choose some that sound like your name and have a meaning. My last name is made with 2 kanjis: E+Kuro: Black river

    All my Chinese colleagues from China ad Honk Kong chose classic American or British first name and add their last Chinese name like Andew Tang or George Wong

      1. I know, I could probably be your grand mother 🙂

        In my time in the 80s, 90s, most of Chinese working abroad were using American first names., things change very fast there. I saw Shanghai without any modern buildings on the bund in 1990 !

        I know the differences with Chinese and Japanese cultures very well, just wanted to point out you can have fun with names almost everywhere and it is a good “cross-cultural”game to use as an ice breaker.

        Japanese pop (in my time ) was quite popular especially in Honk Kong before 1997. China 2011 is now second economy in the world and the young generation you teach has probably few things in common with their baby-boomer parents 🙂

        1. @Anne… trust me.. you look too young to be anyone’s grandmother…:) …. I hear the young generation complaining all the time about their parents being OUT….. I will try your idea…. if I can stop them from naming themselves after NBA stars… and vegetables…. Thanks for the comment.

  6. I have met Weekend and Chasm. In the other hand Chinese people comment that my Chinese last name Ya 亚 isn’t good. Maybe because it also has a meaning of being second and everyone here wants to be the number one 😉

    1. Actually.. my chinese name is Yinglai .. it was giving to me by a close friend. Usually they have some special meanings behind their names and is giving to them by some fortune teller or monk. They think a good names helps to bring a good life. However, i dont think they feel the same about the english name. hehehe…. Although, when I give them names many ask me what does it mean…. they cant really understand … why we give names because they sound cool.. or because we are naming them after someone else.

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