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April 30, 2009

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Nom De Whatever

Intriguing aside in this Slate article by Huan Hsu on office workers in China adopting English names:

In the United States, people tend to view names and identities as absolute things—which explains why I agonized over deciding on an English name—but in China, identities are more amorphous. My friend Sophie flits amongst her Chinese name, English name, MSN screen name, nicknames she uses with her friends, and diminutives that her parents call her. “They’re all me,” she says. “A name is just a dai hao.” Dai hao, or code name, can also refer to a stock’s ticker symbol.

h/t: Saheli

Posted April 30, 2009 at 10:49 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Language, Worldsnark


WOW. I've had this convo w/ lots of people (all Americans) -- "To what extent do you feel like your name is YOU?" Some people say, oh yes, it's central to my identity. Others not so much.

There was another interesting story about names in China recently. The government is moving to "normalize" names to a set of 200 or so characters. Apparently it's been in vogue for a while to find obscure characters for names -- e.g., from old poems. This wreaks havoc with computer systems, b/c what if that character literally isn't part of your character set?

Yeah, I saw that story too -- in the NYT, maybe? whatever. That's an aspect of taking on an English name that's not mentioned here in Slate; any name with a romanized spelling is typographically easier to incorporate than one in Chinese characters (especially nonstandard ones).

Oh, that alphabet. It isn't fucking around.

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