My English Name Is Voldemort

Thanks to Sven (who does not foster age-inappropriate crushes) for the title.

I asked one of my classes to write about their Chinese names. What’s your Chinese name? Who choose your name? What does it mean? Are you named after someone? Do you like it? Is it common?

This assignment was suggested to me at LCC as a non-threatening way to let American immigrant students share a bit about their cultural and personal backgrounds. It was pretty successful, as people shared their baby nicknames and laughed about the way Americans mispronounce their names. (No topic is ever completely safe, and one of my students wrote that her name was chosen by the nuns who found her.)

It’s an even better assignment in China, because the students all write out the lovely characters in their names. It’s always interesting to hear the stories behind Chinese names, I know a girl called “Only Treasure”, because of the one-child policy, and Stick works with a girl called “Rebeautify” since she was born right after a massive storm. My students wrote about how their parents consulted an astrologer, gave them the five elements in their name, one character from an illustrious ancient scholar or poet, plus a homophone for beloved, intelligent and successful.

Now I’ve now got a leg to stand on when they want to change their English names to MooMoo or Watermelon.

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