Refrigerator, Rambo Top Our List Of Favorite Chinese-Chosen English Names

Hello My Name is Refrigerator

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.

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    31 Responses to “Refrigerator, Rambo Top Our List Of Favorite Chinese-Chosen English Names”

    1. Ryan

      I’ve heard fruity, flowery names like Cherry for many years, but now we have interns named Apricot and Nectar. I’ll place bets on the next one being called Pollination.

    2. wha...

      A student I met while hosting campus tours: King Three (like a chess move). Her friend? Thirteen!

      A student with vitiligo: Spotty (own it, bro!)

      3 current students: Whiskey, Gin, and Trouble.

    3. Dawei

      My favourite was a guy from Guangzhou I has some email contact with back in mid 2000s called… “Satan”, I guess it must have sounded strong and powerful to him but a wee bit disconcerting to the Christians he might ever meet.

    4. doris

      One of my favorites was Church.
      I also met a guy called Black, he was there with his friend so I asked him “Oh, is your friend’s name White?” after which he looked at me completely bemused and said “No, his name is Bruce!”

    5. Chinese Netizen

      “Beyond” was popular for young guys back in the ’90s. I believe they named themselves after a moderately popular Asian pop band.

    6. Laowang

      I met a guy called Slab Amethyst back in the late nineties – he had a business card and all. I suppose I understand the precious stone thing but man what a legend.

    7. Strunner

      Not quite the same phenomenon, but my brother Chris, a laowai whose last name starts with “T” was mistakenly given the name Christ by a client and it took him some time to shake it off.

    8. Core Xie

      But I have to say it’s true. I have seen friends of mine wearing names like “Sunny” “Mickey Mouse” and many other “names” which are not name at all.
      By the way, is it ok to use a name as “Core Xie”? :-)

    9. Enzo Mao

      It is quite interesting. And in my writing class, some classmates call themselves Happy; Love
      and so on. And one of my friends named Seven, just because her Chinese name pronounces like seven.

    10. Allen He

      I have ever seen a familiar report about Chinese-chosen English name which makes me laugh for a while. It is a very interesting phenomenon that some Chinese people choose special names and those names always make native people surprised or scared. I guess that one of the reasons is that they want to make themselves different from others.In China, we often pick some features with valuable meaning as one’s name but it seems ridiculous in westurn countries. About myself, I picked Allen as my name because of some special reasons while I am not a guy. It will actually cause some small troubles so I am confused about changing it or not. At least, Allen is much better than Lovely or Sunny.

      • wha...

        You need to realize that at NO point are we surprised or scared by these names. We think they are funny, and to some people, show a lack of language ability. When we choose foreign names in language class in America, our teachers help us choose APPROPRIATE names in the target language. To be sure, people are free to call themselves whatever they want, and the rest of us are free to laugh.

    11. Roxanne Shao

      I have deep feelings on this matter… Because my previous English name was “Gleam” and I chose this word just because its meaning matches with my Chinese name. But my teacher pointed that my previous name was not proper and my Chinese-American friend also said my English name was funny… So I’ve changed the name into “Roxanne”. And I really love the new name! :p

    12. Brett

      As an English teacher for little kids I had to adjust to China quite a bit. The kids coming into class named Du Du, Ka Ka and Pi Pi always made me giggle a bit. Then came the next wave of kids whose parents I think didn’t know how to spell correctly and named their children Wensy and Clear…though Clear was a very good student. I’ve taught a couple Ultramans and also a lot of Disney princesses, but my favorite hands down was Hamburger. His mom named him Hamburger because it’s what he liked to eat.

    13. Gary Wei

      Actually, this is a cultural issue. Name is something that related to a nation’s culture. For example, “强”, often appeared in Chinese names, cannot be merely translated as “healthy” or “strength”. There are also many examples that foreigners choose a Chinese name that we think are funny. But who knows, maybe decades later these funny names could become common. My teacher ever told me that my name “Gary” matched a person like creepy uncle, instead of a guy in his 20, but who cares? I just like it and will continually use it.

      • Joe Blow

        Yeah, my teacher in China named me 扬延昭. Chinese people always giggle, but it’s great. It’s gotten me to the front of the line at restraints and when I had to renew a visa.

        By the way, my uncle’s name is Gary. People always said he looked like a movie star and he got a lot of women when he was younger. That’s not so bad.

    14. Kill Me

      I had a trio of high school girls named Ghost, Killer, and Death. My favorites of the other students I’ve had include Streetcar, Freeze, and Warming.

      I’ve noticed two other types of “English names” here as well: Those which are kinda just letters put together (Yivia, Vincil, etc.) and those which are just Japanese names. Every few months I meet someone who’ll tell me “my English name is Yumiko/Yuki/etc.

    15. shoeguy

      i’m in the shoe business….one of the best I’ve heard was a guy who worked for a polyurethane rubber company who decided to call himself Urethane Lin.

    16. Pu Li

      I’ve had students called Kalashnikov and Konputer.

      My favourite though was Lu Ting. I gave him the name Stan, but his sister said it sounded dull. Consequently I put together a list of popstar names, Tito, Axel, etc. He chose Slash.

    17. mitchell.771

      I remember a guy named Supermarket, I had a student named Seven (no explanation was ever given), the best direct translation I ever heard was Icy Vista.


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