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Old 07-09-2010, 02:19 PM
walnutred walnutred is offline
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Default Curious Chinese names

OK, I'm not trying to start a race bashing thread. Just trying to figure out if the Chinese in the company I work for have odd senses of humor or if it's a cultural thing.

Like many companies today the company I work for has factories in other countries and one of ours is in China. It's customary for Chinese who have to regularly interact with Americans to select American names for themselves. I do not think it's just China, our Nigerian custodian got so tired of us not pronouncing his name correctly he also informally adopted an American first name.

Anyway, our top official in the China plant decided since he was the top official he would adopt the name King. Joe King. The second in command selected for himself the name of Jumbo. Every time I have to call over there and ask if Jumbo Wang is available I suspect they are laughing their back sides off.
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Old 07-09-2010, 02:31 PM
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In Shangai, all the Chinese employees in the stores had nametags. All were western names, such as Wendy, Charles, Sara, etc...always thought it interesting.
Don't know why or wherefore it was occurring. Just interesting.
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Old 07-09-2010, 03:01 PM
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I have traveled extensively in China, and have a lot of Chinese friends. What is common is for Chinese to adopt American first names, especially if they have a lot of interaction with Westerners, or, plan on coming to the US. I have never met a Chinese person who also (informally) changed their family name.

Thus, my friend Xiao Qi (sounds like "sh-owww chee") -- 肖齐 -- is Lucy, which is much more pronouncable for American tongues (see photos). My friend Zhengyu (sounds like "jeng yu") -- 郑虞 -- is Phil. There is also the factor of wanting to fit in. My friend Zhang Yi-Heng took the name Percival Zhang when he came here to teach at Virginia Tech. Since his first name "Heng" -- 恒 -- means "perseverance" in Chinese, he took the Western name Percival.

In China the family name is always given first, before the given name, and it is appropriate to address someone this way if you do not know them well. However, if the relationship is what we would say is on a first name basis, Chinese will take it as a mild insult if you address them that way since it implies formality and distance. Kind of like your mother calling you by your first and middle names when she's ticked off at you.

Some Chinese know of the American proclivity to make fun of names like Wang, Fook, etc. They do not think it is funny, not only for the obvious reason that equating someone's name with a sex organ or sex act is invariably an insult in any society, but also because that kind of humor is just not a part of Chinese culture, which remains, for the most part, modest and socially conservative.

If a Chinese introduces him or herself using an American first name, I always ask them to please also tell me their Chinese name and if I may address them that way. I have never offended anyone by asking this, and many Chinese appreciate our effort to speak even a few words of their language. My friend Li Cui uses the name "Dora," but I always call her Cui -- 崔 -- (which sounds like "qweee"). When she asked me why I do this I just told her that the sound is more melodious than "Dora." That earned me a smashing smile and a big hug.

Hope this helps.



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Old 07-09-2010, 03:18 PM
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Bullseye, your experience is similar to mine in most cases. When in college years ago I worked part time as an ESL tutor and most of my students were Chinese. They had all adopted American/English first names such as Grace, Angela etc. That is why I suspect the names they selected are some sort of inside joke.

If in your experience the Chinese do not joke about sex among themselves all I can say is your experience is different than mine.
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Old 07-09-2010, 03:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walnutred View Post
Bullseye, your experience is similar to mine in most cases. When in college years ago I worked part time as an ESL tutor and most of my students were Chinese. They had all adopted American/English first names such as Grace, Angela etc. That is why I suspect the names they selected are some sort of inside joke.

If in your experience the Chinese do not joke about sex among themselves all I can say is your experience is different than mine.
You are quite right -- they do joke about sex, and some of those jokes are funny and pretty raunchy. It's just that in my experience they do not make scatological fun of other people's names. Where were you in China when you were tutoring?


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Old 07-09-2010, 03:49 PM
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No, it was here in Ohio. Most of my students were women who were either here for college or more often their husbands were here for an advanced degree. These individuals understood the basics of English and had been in America for a couple years. They had come to the point where they felt safe enough they wanted to leave the house on their own, but did not feel comfortable enough with conversational English to want to solo.

Basically my job was to act as an interactive sounding post for them to practice talking. Along with give instructions and provide practice on how to ask for directions, order in a restaurant etc.

What I found very interesting about this job was that one way we were instructed to help them talk better was to ask questions about absolutely anything and everything. It was a challenge at times but very interesting. One guy I honestly think was a spy of some sorts. When he found out I had been in the Army he would constantly ask question about the range of various types of artillery, blast radius of various shell, etc. Though almost everyone I tutored claimed to have served some time in the Chinese Army.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:13 PM
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On paper, military service there is compulsory for everyone when they reach 18, but no one is ever drafted since they get more than enough volunteers. Military service is respected and is still one of the better pathways to middle class (Chinese style) life since there is certainly a veterans preference in hiring, especially if the company is state owned or state connected. If you are from a poor rural family (which applies to about 800 million of the 1.3 billion population) military service is definitely the way to go since getting into a good Chinese university is extremely competitive and difficult, and even a degree from a good school does not guarantee a good job after graduation.

I had a driver and tour guide in Yun Nan Province (Lijiang City) who took us to Leaping Tiger Gorge (see photo), who was a former Chinese special forces operator. It was that service that enabled him to get (on credit, which is still largely unheard of there) the 4-wheel drive SUV he needed for his business and those service connections also provided a source of business referrals.



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Old 07-09-2010, 04:51 PM
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Default Or they get an all expense paid education here in the USA

It is easier for them to get a scholarship here, partly because of our foreign student quota and to be "diverse" enough!
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Old 07-09-2010, 06:25 PM
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It is unfortunate that most Americans don't know what their own names mean.
Niko (Nike) means "Victory".
Nicholas means "Shining Victory" (And has reference to the coming of Christianity).
Steve (Stavros) is "The Cross".
Michael is Hebrew and means "Who is like god". (It is a question).
The Vietnamese and Chinese people I know know what their names mean. Much has been lost here over the generations.
(My sister used to teach ESL to people from South America. As soon as they translated her last name, Warfield, to "campo de guerra", they all declared it to be the best English name they ever heard).
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Old 07-09-2010, 07:47 PM
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I imagine they take American/English first names because it is almost impossible for English speakers to pronounce their Chinesse names right. (or even close)
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Old 07-10-2010, 03:48 PM
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Many Japanese adopt traditional American first names, although it is mostly only men that do this in my experience. I think it is a convenience for business, and is probably fun for them, too.

I have a Japanese friend who was stationed in Saudia Arabia. His family name is "Tanaka," which is kinda like "Smith." Very common. He told me that he noticed that whenever he introduced himself, people would suppresss a smile, and sort of s******. He got to wondering about this. He finally learned that it sounded like their word for, um, a female private part. Kinda like the Jumbo Wang story.

Names can be funny or surprising in other people's languages.
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Old 07-10-2010, 11:37 PM
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"Ever notice there aren't many Chinese guys named Rusty? Guess the name never caught on over there." -- George Carlin
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Old 07-11-2010, 07:36 AM
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There was a legal secretary in the firm's Hong Kong office by the name of Purple Wang. I kid you not. We died laughing when the directory came out.
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