Monday, March 21, 2011

Some English names I would give my Chinese students, if I could (and if I dared).

I always thought to make this list.  Sometimes, the students would like me to give them English names, but lately, I find myself telling them that I would get back to them about it -- the issue of naming is wrought with possibilities.  I would venture to say that it is overwrought. And so after making a mental note about making a list of names and putting it in my wallet, I never do...
However, one evening, a few weeks ago, I jotted these possible names into a notebook -- finally getting around to it, as it were.  I told myself to jot down ten.  The first one on the list was easy because I giggled so much when I thought of it that I became inspired to make a list of ten.  However, the longer I made the list, the less resolute and amused I became.  I shelved, as the expression goes, till now.
Here goes nothing:
  1. Oklahoma:  Something about the Grunge scene -- you, know, Nirvana and the band that did the song about Jeremy speaking in class -- just turned me off.  Maybe, I was getting old.  Maybe, I didn't like the fact that these bands, seemed to have descended from the alternative bands I liked (the Smiths, New Order, Husker Du), and had sinned by becoming too popular.  Anyway, it was the Grunge scene that made me decide to go back, way back, in my musical exploration.  I decided that I would become a Sinatra fan.  From there, it was only a matter of time before I discovered the joys of Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Cole Porter, and Rodgers and Hammerstein.  One day, I was flipping through racks of DVDs in Wuxi, and I found a copy of Oklahoma! -- the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.  Putting that in the DVD player was the cultural equivalent of bringing a Husker Du tape back to Brandon, Manitoba.  It was awesome full of real catchy tunes including the one about Oklahoma being okay.  I would name a student Oklahoma as an excuse to sing songs from that musical.  "You're Okay Oklahoma, Oklahoma you're doing okay!"
  2. Mahovlich.  I saw Frank Mahovlich in Brandon, Manitoba -- I bring this up because it was a fond reminiscence.  The Big "M" and his brother Pete, the little "M" were awesome hockey players, that I watched on television in my impressionable years.  To see one of them live, even in an old-timers game, was a thrill.  The Big "M" had a way of skating, with a big strong wide gait, that was distinctive, and he still had it in his fifties.  Now, I would name a Chinese student Mahovlich because I love to pronounce that name.  One has to press one's lower lips against the teeth, and then push the word to the top of one's throat.  It would be my way of getting back at the Chinese for having such a tonal language.
  3. Autumn.  I have had students named Summer, Spring, and Winter; but never Autumn or Fall.  I know, and  then, I could say, I don't know why this should be.  I would give the name Autumn to students who strike me as being mature.
  4. Smoggy.  Same rationale as choice number three.  I have had students named Rainy and Sunny.  Why not Smoggy?  I would give the name Smoggy to students who were avid smokers.  (I actually had a student tell me smoking was his hobby -- God Bless 'em! I said.  True rebellion always wins my admiration.)
  5. Cheryl.  I haven't had a Chinese student called Cheryl -- that is my rationale for this name.
  6. Mulligan. Same rationale as name number five.
  7. Anatole.  Same rationale as name number five and six, except one little proviso:  the way I see it, Anatole is not a name you can give to someone right away.  They have show you they have a personality of an Anatole.  The personality of an Anatole? you say.  They have to have a personality to match the scowl.
  8. Esposito.  I named my son Tony after Tony Esposito (Actually I named my son Anthony so he could shorten his name to Tony, but you get the idea.).  Esposito was the coolest  hockey goalie of all-time -- even cooler than Ken Dryden, circa 1971 - 1973.  As well, Esposito like Mahovlich, is just a cool name to say.  And there are lots of students named Tony who don't want to be reminded that they have the same name as my son.  "Hey Esposito!  Make a sentence with "perchance."
  9. Jefferson.  Many of the younger male students like to name themselves after NBA players - Kobe and Lebron.  One thing I wish the Chinese would do -- actually they are many but I won't talk about all that -- is follow NFL football.  There are many cool and graceful wide receivers named Jefferson that I can recall.
  10. Bonita.  It is like the name of my sister, and there are no Bonita's that I know of in China.
  11. Hector.  You got name a student after something Greek and Homerish.
  12. Abraham.  The students say they admire Abraham Lincoln, and yet not one of them has named themselves after him.
  13. Aina.  My mom's name.

And so I have a list bigger than ten.  It turns out, the list is long on names but short on long-winded rationales.

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