CCTV recently published an article called “Tips for Chinese choosing an English name,” which is frankly exactly the type of piece I think CCTV should be publishing more of. It features delightful sentences such as, “Many Chinese like to pick names that are in fact, not names,” and, “Meanwhile, Dong and Wang is used as slang for male genitalia. So avoid anything like ‘Bunny Wang’ at all times.” It got us thinking: what are the best Chinese-chosen English names we know?
My favorite has, since the beginning, been “Refrigerator.” I don’t even remember the story anymore, but the name itself has branded itself into my brain. I will carry Refrigerator, capital R, to my grave, long after I’ve forgotten my first love or the smell of bacon or any number of actually worthwhile things.
I canvassed a few other BJC contributors, and here’s what they had to say:
Fish was called Fish because her Cantonese name sounded like Fish. Which happens to sound like “bruise,” and she played rugby and always got bruises so she thought Fish would be appropriate. She captained one of the rugby teams in HK.
Laughter I met once through a friend. Didn’t speak English very well, went to local high school in HK, kind of just putzed around and worked odd jobs. But she said she liked to laugh and make people laugh.
Success was a fat Chinese man who carried around an umbrella and we all thought he resembled the Penguin from Batman.
Bamboo was a bao’an for my old neighborhood. Then he texted me sexual messages.
Rambo. Not much of a story, just met a kid named Rambo… never learned why. Then there was…
Salad. Don’t know there either, was a one-time class I taught. Oh, and there was…
Titanic. Ha. You can probably guess why on that one.
What are your favorite English names chosen by non-native English speakers? Sound off in the comments below. We’ll bump our favorites up here.
Update: Vitiligo, n.: a skin disorder characterized by smooth, white patches on various parts of the body, caused by the loss of the natural pigment.
Plus Whiskey and Trouble, yet another Fish, etc. Scroll down for more.