Mun Yin Liu: Why are Hong Kong names so weird?
Hong Kong’s bad habit of picking random "English" names is getting too much.
"My name's Mun Yin"
"Hi! You're not from Hong Kong?"
"That's right, I'm from England."
"So what's your English name?"
"I don't have one."
"Really? So you're from England but don't have an English name? That's really weird!"
But is it? I'm not so sure that it's that weird. It's perfectly normal to me to use the name my parents gave me. I'm pretty sure that they put some thought into picking my name, so it would feel a bit of a waste not to use it.
Besides, after 26 years, I'm kind of used to it; I don't think I could react to suddenly being called Pete.
It's an odd fact that Hong Kongers will give themselves an English name (or Spanish, French or Italian for that matter). Speaking to my older cousins, this seems to stem from colonial habits of making life more convenient for the foreigners.
However, it seems that Hong Kong is the only Asian country to do this consistently.
To highlight my point, let's look at famous high achievers around Asia. Cricket fans will all know about Sachin Tendulkar. Football followers will probably know about Park Ji-Sung, Hidetoshi Nakata, Keisuke Honda and Sun Jihai. Then Ichiro Suzuki is to baseball fans as what Yao Ming is to NBA spectators.
None of these have a name that is recognizably English. Hong Kong's star athlete du jour, on the other hand, is snooker champ Marco Fu.
I think that Hong Kong needs to be prouder of its Chinese heritage and reflect this in their names. No other Asian nation seems to be bothered about having a name that might be a bit of a tongue twister for the English.
In many cases, Hong Kongers are running the risk of sounding daft.
A quick browse through my friends' Facebook friends and I can see Minnie Wang, Ivan Ho, Will Lee, Actual Li and Zinc Lo.
A more public example would be one of Hong Kong’s pseudo-models, named Sweet Ho.
But then, some of the names aren’t accidents, either. In the search for a unique name, many will pick various nouns and adjectives as names. Further digging through secondary contacts, and I can see the following first names: Rhino, Spooky, Echo and Colon.
If that doesn’t work, then the next step is to use "son" as a suffix. I have come across Rainson, Manson, Benson, Kingson and Fourson to name a few.
Failing all of the above, the last throw of the dice seems to be similar to pulling out Scrabble letters. Prime examples are Birkhoff and Minles, two people I have met.
It’s true that growing up in the U.K. made it a bit difficult whenever I had to introduce myself to new people. But after repeating myself a few times, I found that my name was generally very well remembered.
Of course, there were many occasions when I wished I was called Pete, and I have even considered calling my children Lulu or Justin.
But enough of the funnies. For every 10 daft names I find, there will be Ka Po, a Kit Yu, a Ching Fan and many other phonetically translated names keeping it real. By going with what your parents gave you, you’ll probably have a more unique name than many of your peers.
So you’re unlikely to see your name on a novelty mug or keychain, and it might not always work, as Batman Bin Suparman will tell us. Naturally, it’s up to you.
I sincerely hope that you’ll consider using your Cantonese name instead. If you do go English, just don’t tell me that you’re called Holly Sit.