Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Funny Names Taiwanese People Choose

When I studied French in high school, I choose my own French name to use during class. Simillarly, most Taiwanese people get to choose their own English name to use when studying English (and talking to foreigners).

While the majority of them pick ones that actually are names in the English language, there is a large group of them that select ones that, for a native English speaker, seem a bit ridiculous.

I guess there are several reasons for this - in Chinese, they don't have any characters that are only names (like Jennifer - it doesn't mean anything, it is just a name). Although they do have a set of common characters that are used in the naming of people, in theory it is possible to use any Chinese character in the naming of a person.

Additionally, while I may be able to choose a reasonable name from a language like French or Spanish, I have no idea what is and is not a nice name in a language like Chinese or Japanese. It's only fair to assume that the Taiwanese people are just as clueless when they are choosing an English name.

Whatever the reasons may be, Taiwan is chock-full of people with ridiculous English names. I gave you a list of some of them when I first got to Taiwan (here)

Here is a second installment:
















Evens (a girls name)




Beryl (pronounced Burial)

Swallow Ho

and last but not least

Kimbery - While this does resemble an actual name in the English language, it is funny because typically native Chinese speakers have trouble pronouncing the letter l and so it often sounds like r . Assuming that this student was mispronouncing her own name, Nick politely corrected it for her. At which time she clarified: Her name isn't Kimberly, it's Kimbery... a name her mom gave to her.... (her native Chinese speaking mom)

Well, that's all I have for now. But give me a couple of months and I'll be back with a fresh installment!


  1. I'm gonna tell everyone here that my Chinese name is 魏早餐 (Breakfast Wei). Just to make a point. But that would be silly.

  2. A further reason is that because they give each other nicknames in Chinese and enjoy being called "Dried Tofu" or "Fat boy" or "Snow White" or "Slow One" . . . what would be the problem with doing it in English?

    A "name" is a sacred thing chosen with great care by fortune tellers and wise grandfathers. It must not be used too much. So, instead they get called "meimei" and "tongshue" . . .but if you have 50 classmates, what do you do?

    Give everyone a nickname based on their personality or physical characteristics.

    Many have more than one--one for each group they "belong" to.

  3. Alien huang, tender huang.

  4. Hi~
    Can't believe this name list is from Taiwan, but I know one called herself Ferrari...!

    Welcome to visit my article related your topic from a historical aspect!

    and a German freelance journalist based in Taipei, who also wrote about this from a social analysis view!

    Have a nice day!