Chinese names with English words spark controversy in China

By Pranay Sharma, IANS,

Beijing : For ages, Chinese names have been the subject of interest and even jokes among some in the rest of the world. Now they are having the same effect in China.

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A growing number of people in China are now using obscure Chinese characters and English words and numbers when naming their children. Names like Wang Com, Zhao C, Li U and others have sparked off a controversy among experts and local residents.

Unlike the African-American leader of the 1960s, Malcolm X, who dropped his surname to snap ties with his “white” slave masters, modern day Chinese names rarely make a political point. Rather, they have become the topic of discussion and often, ridicule among the people of China.

“These words sound more like e-mail IDs than names of people,” says Zhou Huo, a young government official residing in Beijing.

Chinese parents have traditionally named their children after characters from epics, royal families or subjects of their favourite poets. More often than not, Chinese names have grand meanings. And at times they are also apt.

The last Chinese ambassador to India, was Sun Yuxi, whose name literally means “the emperor’s seal”- closely fitting his job description.

Chinese diplomats, officials or journalists serving in other countries, especially in the English speaking world, usually adopt English names that most people in that country will find easy to pronounce. At the same time, officials, diplomats and others serving in China are commonly given Chinese names, which are used during their stay in China.

But names with Chinese characters and English words have been on the rise in many provinces and cities, according to the Chutian Metropolitian Daily.

Some people regard giving children such distinct names as social progress. Others, however, argue that English words and letters in Chinese names degrade Chinese culture and will cause trouble for children who bear such names in the future.

However, certain lawyers, according to the newspaper, say people have the right to use both Chinese characters and English letters when naming their children.