Why Chinese Like Weird English Names

I recently got to know a guy named ‘Cridge’, another ‘Forrest’. They are grown-up professional Chinese men not hippies.  (Forrest even went abroad for his MBA education.)

As some might know, English names chosen by Chinese often range from weird to wacky. Over the years, I have known several girls named ‘Kinki’, men ‘Sky’ and even a ‘Boot’. They are young cosmopolitan Chinese who want to express personality and individuality through their English names. But they must have a very misconstrued view of English names. I suspect many see it as a name rebirth of the ‘tribal’ names they were first given by their English teachers, most of who go through a list of top 20 boys’ and girls’ names. That’s how I got my name ‘Jenny’. I have thought about switching to names like ‘Chloe’ or ‘Valaria’. But I would have a new favorite name once every month that I was even confusing myself.

I wonder if there is any implication for foreigners choosing a Chinese name. (Stick with transliterations?) I have an ultra-hip friend from Brooklyn whose Chinese name is 张明/Zhang1 Ming2, which could not be a more authentic and average Chinese name. But it was too Chinese of a name for him.

Oh, speaking of weird English names, my little nephew is named ‘Navy’ (given by his mother to honor our grandfather who served in the Chinese Navy.) Ah, maybe there is a personal story behind every weird name.

Additional thoughts: it dawned on me why so many Chinese have weird English names (and why some foreigners have funny Chinese names). It’s because we sometimes lack the cultural awareness and references to interpret names. So the nuances get lost in the process. Someone named ‘Cridge’ is most likely unconscious of how awkward the name is. And these subtleties   take time and sometimes being in a foreign country to develop. So I guess the best way to pick a name is to ask at least 5 native speakers.

52 thoughts on “Why Chinese Like Weird English Names

  1. Pingback: Quora
  2. It probably happens because some chinese people might pick english names for their sound/pronunciation according to their primary language; in the same way that If me, an american were to pick a japanese name, “Ryubachi,” or “Kayabuki” might sound cool, but in japanese they might take it as the equivalent of “glurp,” or “mubbly.”

    I’ve come across a smothering of names, some to cringe at, some more common:
    Hugo, Volcano, Cap, Darius (Epic!), Agnes, Anson (Female), Onorian, Shady, Yolyre, Athena, Dickson, Ankh, Preil, Amelin, Hanny, Debphy, Phyllis, Hellas

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>