My name is... complicated

My name is... complicated

Names and identity in China.

The first name goes last, Japan says. (But that’s not always the case)
Japan has a message to the English-speaking world: the last name goes first. The Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono said that the country’s leader should be addressed in English as Abe Shinzo, not Shinzo Abe, according to the Mainichi newspaper. It would be much like how his South Korean and Chinese counterparts, Moon Jae-in and Xi Jinping, are usually known. The request highlights a question many people in Asian countries face when it comes to transliterating their names into a different language, and the potential confusion that can arise from differing approaches. For example, Chinese names in their romanized form can lead with either the first name or the last name, and there are no har
The first name goes last, Japan says. (But that’s not always the case)
The tales Chinese last names tell us about immigration
Apart from being badass martial arts icons, Bruce Lee, and Jet Li have one more thing in common – they share the same last name. In English, Lee and Li are two different last names, but in Chinese, they’re written as the same character – 李. It is one of the most common Chinese last names. The distinction in English is the result of two different transliterations. “Lee” comes from a system of romanization of Chinese characters common among Cantonese speakers in southern China, whereas “Li” comes from Pinyin, the standard system of romanized spelling used by Mandarin speakers in mainland China. If you want to get your head around China’s vast regional and cultural differences, Lee and Li is a
The tales Chinese last names tell us about immigration
Why I adopted a mispronunciation of my name
“Hi, my name is Qin. You can call me Keen, as in, I’m very keen to meet you.” This is the latest version of how I introduce myself to people. In previous versions, I have told others they can call me Quinn, King, Kim, and occasionally Q – just the letter Q. Like millions of other immigrants who came to America to pursue something, I was motivated to make my Chinese name easier for Americans to say. It would have been easiest if I’d just adopt an American name. But I liked my Chinese name and didn’t feel particularly like a Michelle, an Amanda, a Cherry or any other Western option. Qin is written as 沁 in Chinese. It means “refreshing flavor,” like that burst of citrus you get when peeling an
Why I adopted a mispronunciation of my name
From ‘fight America’ to ‘poetic rain’: what naming trends say about a changing China
Chinese given names are mostly two or three characters long, but they can be packed with history. Consider “fight America.” Or “help North Korea.” Or “build China.” These are literally what countless Chinese parents named their children in the 1950s in the years following the founding of communist China. But Chinese naming trends have changed over the decades, reflecting a country that has undergone dramatic political and cultural transformations. In the 60s, some of the hottest baby names were “Cultural Revolution,” ”Red Guards” and “learn from the military.” But most Chinese children today no longer bear names that hark back to any political campaigns launched by Chairman Mao. Instead, th
From ‘fight America’ to ‘poetic rain’: what naming trends say about a changing China
Before I was Viola I was Amy. And Easy
At the end of one English class in third grade, I became Amy. My teacher – a young man we called “Mister Wang” – handed every student a card that held the English name he had chosen for us. I found on my card a picture of a cute anime character and the handwritten word “Amy.” So that became my English name, the first of several more to come that would go on to define me and lead to strange conversations. But first, “Amy” accompanied me when I was learning to sing the alphabet, the words for fruits and animals, and the most basic conversations: “How are you, Amy?” “I’m fine, thank you. And you?” A bigger vocabulary later enabled us to get more creative with our English names. My peers picked
Before I was Viola I was Amy. And Easy