The name game is played according to a totally different set of rules in China. Here, Chinese and foreigners get to choose their own appellations in each other's languages. But when people start making names for themselves outside of their mother tongues, the results are often comical to native speakers.[Agencies]
The name game is played according to a totally different set of rules in China. Here, Chinese and foreigners get to choose their own appellations in each other's languages. But when people start making names for themselves outside of their mother tongues, the results are often comical to native speakers.
I've seen many foreign friends elicit guffaws from native Mandarin speakers when announcing their self-selected Chinese designations. However, this end of the equation is lost on me. And even after the Chinese would explain why these foreigners' names were so funny, those of us on the laowai side of things just couldn't quite get it.
I imagine it's the same thing in reverse for those names Chinese choose for themselves that native English speakers find funny.
My girlfriend works as a Business English instructor at China Agricultural University, and her student roster provides some prime specimens of this phenomenon.
When Carol asked 11 how to spell his name, for example, he simply held up both index fingers. In 11's class, Rainbow sometimes sits between Sunny and Rain, who are in the same section as Weather. However, Shadow is, appropriately, in a different class than Sunny.
One of Carol's colleagues has Clean Water in her class, along with Carol's student from last semester, Hotmail. She recalls the day Hotmail sat behind Clean Water, and she confused the friends by accidentally calling on "Hot Water".
Hotmail says he chose his name because it was a phonetic approximation of his Chinese name, Hou Miao. When Carol had him last semester, his classmate also took a name brand for a namesake: Gucci.
When Carol was given a new class section last week, she got a few giggles out of her new class roster, which lists the likes of Axl and Wheat. But Bingo - yes, Bingo really is his name-o - was her favorite.
She got another laugh out of this class when she first met Alansmith, because he insisted: "It's one word, but you can call me Alan." Upon starting lessons, she quickly found that Dim's moniker is a misnomer, because he and his colorful classmate Neon are among her brightest pupils.
Sometimes, students select names based on qualities they aspire to. For example, Leader hopes to become a government official. But while Sin's pseudonym seems to extol evil as her most venerated virtue, she's actually quite nice. One of Carol's colleagues also has a student named Sin in the same section as Lucifer.
On weeknights, Carol tutors 11-year-old Smart, a clever kid who truly lives up to his name.
Like most foreigners, I've encountered several strange pseudonyms outside of Carol's classes. One of my first language-exchange partners was a bartender named Tiger, who took this title from the brand of beer. Because his English was scant, when explaining the meaning of his name, he would curl his fingers in front of his face, bear his teeth and let loose with a guttural growl. His colleague Mouse, however, was meeker in explaining his moniker. The list of odd appellations goes on, and anything goes - just name it.
（英语点津 Celene 编辑）