Monday, May 18, 2009

Haircuts as a Multi-Cultural Experience

Recently, the lady who cuts my hair asked me to find an English Name for her infant son, Rong-Zhi.

She said she didn't want a name that was too popular, or sounded old.

Since Taiwanese like to find names that sound similar to their Chinese name, I suggested Rain, and thought we would have a winner with that. She liked it because it's the same name as a famous South Korean singer and actor. But, her husband feared his mother-in-law wouldn't be able to pronounce it correctly. So we kept looking.

I pushed both "Romeo" and "Rufio" but those were a no-go.

We ended up settling on "Robbie". Seems a good, solid name, yea?

Around that time, a friend I made at the neighborhood tea stand (She's kind of the Taiwanese equivalent to a Starbucks Barista) asked me to help her find a new English name. She decided she didn't like "Polly" - the name her English teacher originally gave her.

She said she doesn't want anything too girly. I said I'll have to think about it.

I wonder if there's a business opportunity for me here? At any rate, do you have any suggestions or favorite names?

I hope I can do some good. I'm tired of meeting "Cherrys" and "Angels" ...


floreta said...

lol! there's a girl in my karate class who's from the *same island* of the Philippines as me and i *thought* her name was Cherry but it's actually Charity. better?

What is her Taiwanese name?? That might help.. But along the lines of Polly (P)..hmmm... Paula. Patti. Praline. Paige. Paz. Paprika!

Don said...

"And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof..."

Be creative! Be ridiculous. Be prophetic! Be serious.

Be careful, they might listen to you.


Jon and Steph said...

How funny! Angel really? Never would have thought!

That's really neat that people are coming to you for help... I'd say that's an awesome job!

Diana said...

i like the name dylan. good for a boy or girl! maybe too american??

Deeptesh said...

What is the meaning of her name Chase?I've no idea but that might help.N c my poem when u find time.

Sebastian said...

Why on earth did you go for a bunch of names beginning with R? :P

The Asian phonemes mix up Luh and Ruh... Lobbie?

Sebastian's a good name, incidentally.

SuzANNE said...

What a fun post! Floreta suggested Paige, that is really cute. Keep in mind the accent so you have to be very cautious. Emma is pretty and for that little boy, I always had a problem with names that ended with -ie. Seems incomplete unless it was a nickname. Anyway, I'm rambling now. Always a pleasure reading your posts.

floreta said...

@Seb Sebastian IS a good name. uhm, i actually named my violin (loosely) sebastian. hahaha. that was years ago though so it has NOTHING to do with you :P

Jenny Colborn said...

I like...Micah, Andrew, Ryan, Josh, Fillip

And for girls...Kapri, Melody, Mischa, Peyton

For names that are like Polly...try Paula, Peony, Paulina, Paige, etc.

Gavin said...

How about Hula Hoop? Or maybe Ipod? I'm thinkin modern here, an basically lookin around my flat, although I don't have an ipod. How about Unicorn? Yes I have a unicorn in the kitchen.

Young Traveler said...

Maybe we should go back to the Indian way of naming: pick a name that represents your personality.

In that case, I would be: Girl-who-likes-to-go-places-and-is-sometimes-ridiculous.

Chase said...

@Floreta, Charity is cute. Wouldn't be against that. And I must agree with SuzANNE, "Paige" is a really cute name.

@Don, I know what I'm up against. There's a piece of me that would be quite proud to know there's a Romeo walking around Taiwan thanks to me.

@Steph, yeah, it's kinda fun. Don't plan on having any children any time soon. But this is kind of like good practice. :)

@Diana, Dylan is way cute (and a nice nod to Bob). I'm a big fan of dual-gender names. That's what I'll lean towards for Polly, I think.

@Deeptesh, good question... hm.

@Seb, I listened to that whole song. And loved it. And in that same vein - I don't think anyone 'round these parts can pronounce "Sebastien"

@ANNE, I'm not crazy about the name "Robbie" - or other "ie" names for boys - to be honest. I have my mom to thank for that: she worked hard to make sure her sons couldn't be called a "-ie" name. "Chasie" just doesn't work (though some have tried).

@Floreta again, I've never been able to name inanimate objects for precisely that reason. How uncomfortable do you think Seb feels now?

@Jenny, we just named a friend of mine "Micah" - I was pushing for Max, though. His Mandarin name literally means "Little Million", so I was trying to go for "Maxamillion" ... it didn't happen.

@Gavin, "basically lookin around my flat, although I don't have" ...I fully expected you to say "hula hoop" here. Whatever makes your world spin, dude.

@Young Traveler, I think that name is spot on ;)

Kat Argonza | Tough Girl 101 said...

Funny enough, a lot of Filipino girls are called "apple"... it's always been a little strange to me.

I do see some potential business ehre :-)

Readin said...

Do the same thing parents do when they need to name a kid. Go online and look for lists of names. Try googling "baby names". They'll be able to provide you information about what is popular today, what was popular before, what the names mean, what the historical origin of the names was, etc..

If you want to really do a good job (and naming someone is a big thing, they'll have it their whole life), you should ask the person or the parents about what they consider important. Let them know that most English names don't have immediately recognizable meanings, and then ask if they care about the meaning. Ask them if they want a name that will fit in, or a name that will stand out. Warn them that a common name that is easy for Taiwanese to pronounce will likely be shared by many many people given how Chinese last names are so often repeated. Think of how many "John Wang"s you know.

Ask them whether they want a formal name or a nickname (William or Bill? Josheph or Joe?)

For girl names, you want to avoid older names. Girls names need to be more fashionable. A girl's name shouldn't sound like it belongs no a grandmother. For boy names it's usually ok to pick an older name. You'll notice this if you look at naming patterns. The same boy's names remain popular for decades while girl's names go in and out of fashion. When was the last time you met a little girl named "Barbara" or "Mary"? When was the last time you met a boy named "John"?