Thursday, September 11, 2008

What's in A Name?

Photo courtesy of Paul Wozniak's Facebook Profile

Today I rechristened a child--he told me his English name was Bobo, and I suggested that he change his name to Paul because "my friend Paul has really cool glasses like you!" When he asked what was wrong with the name Bobo, I just told him it might be cute when he's young, but maybe people would think it's weird when he's a little older. I also suggested the name Ira (as in Ira Glass, host of This American Life), but he seemed to like the name Paul better, which is good because I wouldn't want people to wonder how the hell a Jewish kid ended up looking so Chinese.

The truth is, I have no idea what people are thinking when they give these kids English names. One of my students is a girl named Bass (no, that's not a misspelling. She insisted it was spelled with an "a") and I definitely have a boy named Joy. My roommate Katie has a girl named Pust, and another Fulbrighter told me one of her students is a boy named Baby. It's like some kind of cruel joke. Also, every single class I have taught has had at least one (but often 2) girls named Angel. I've also got a lot of Tinas, which is a name I don't encounter all that often in U.S.

Most kids have decided to keep their Chinese names, which makes a lot of sense. The only problem is, I have well over 300 students who have decided to keep their Chinese names and since my command of Chinese isn't so great, I'll basically have to remember a bunch of sounds that don't mean anything to me and try to match them with faces that aren't exactly as diverse as they are in the US. If I can remember all of their names by December, I'll consider my year in Taiwan a success, though it's looking pretty unlikely at this point....

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