Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What's In A Name

All our students have a single "English" name in classes where they are taught by foreign teachers. It makes remembering them a whole lot easier because their English name is familiar and instantly easy to remember plus it helps  identify the student as male or female...usually.

While reading our students' autobiographies and talking to students, I discovered a difference between the names that are given in Western culture and how people are given names in China. We have lists of names to chose like Richard, Elizabeth, Robert, plus their nicknames, Dick, Liz and Bob.
But our Chinese students' names are very different. First of all, the surname or family name always comes first, instead of last like in western culture. So we would be Kuzmich John or Kuzmich Roslyn according to the Chinese name placement. The Given Name, what we refer to as your first name, is where things get really interesting. 

Naming a child is serious business in China. A name can shape their character and future happiness. And the names look nothing like we would recognize as an actual name in the West. Generally, their is no distinction between male and female in a Chinese name. And the given name will most often consist of an adjective and a noun, both of which bestow upon the child some kind of expectation, honor or noble description which he or she will then live up to during  life.

Here is how one student described how she got her name:

"Naming their little princess was really a big task during that period of all my grandparents and relatives firmly agreed that the meaning of the name can play an important role in deciding one's characteristic and future life. Therefor, each of them tried their best to find different source of materials not only from the Internet but also the encyclopedia, hoping to find a Chinese character which could contain all the well-wishing of the world. After a few days, everyone gathered together with their piece of paper which was filled with names, the one with the highest vote would be accepted. It seemed like a Chinese poem seminar. They discussed its deeper meaning and a good explanation, refuting others' and give own reasons. Before my mom gave her decision, the argument between my father and grandma became white-hot and neither of them wanted to give in. It was my mother's inspiration that moment that made all the people in that room raise their hands. My Chinese  name is endless internally wisdom and externally charming. Until now, when some praised me about becoming a guaranteed university student and going to be as a exchanged student next year, my mother would be so proud and explain to others just how lucky she was at that time to grasp the realization."

1 comment:

  1. It is a little different, in the pictorial sense, but Americans sometimes choose names based on what they mean.
    Take Teancum for example...