There’s an old line that goes, “what’s in a name?”. Apparently, not much if you’re in Hong Kong. Even when I was still teaching swimming back in Vancouver it was noticed that the waves of Hong Kong Chinese that had immigrated chose some odd names for their kids (based on our standard, that is). Why they bothered was a bit of a conundrum to those of us with, at that time, little understanding of Hong Kong or its people. I mean, you don’t see Japanese people taking on English names, or even Mainland Chinese for that matter. I suppose it all goes back to all those years of British rule.
At that time, in the late 80’s through the 90’s names like King, Princess, Queenie, Daisy and Flower were all the rage. Those seem mighty normal compared to some of the English names I’ve encountered since coming here. Things should be put in perspective I suppose. It’s not like Western society hasn’t come up with some pretty out-there names but they were traditionally (though not exclusively) in the realm of show business. Anyone remember Dweezil and Moon-unit Zappa? Or how about River and Rain Phoenix? Come to think of it, my brother went to elementary school with a guy named Harley Davidson. That’s just mean.
I guess it’s the nature of language and by extension, names, to go through evolutions of sorts. Some of my students have quite passable nouns as names. Following actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s fruity example, we have Apple, Cherry, and Kiwi. Some seem to follow a weather theme. In addition to Summer and Autumn as you’d find in the West, there’s Winter, Sunny, and Snowie.
Nature and the animal kingdom are not left out either as evidenced by Moon, Emerald, Tiger, Koala and… wait for it… Mountain. Some of the wee nippers have some hefty expectations to live up to with their names as evidenced by Einstein (who most definitely is not) as well as Moses. I can’t verify it but I’m pretty sure parting bodies of water is a bit out of his league. I’ll have to wait for the next rain storm, take him out to a puddle and find out.
Then we get into “huh?” territory. I can’t for the life of me figure out where the parents came up with some of the choices. In traditional Chinese and Japanese culture, the number of strokes is important in the characters of a name but that just doesn’t hold for the English alphabet. I’ve got a Human in one class and a Symphony in another (music lovers, perhaps?). One kid is Happy (at least he usually lives up to his name) and another is Noddy. A friend of mine had a colleague named Hymen. My friend didn’t have the heart to point out the female anatomy definition. Could’ve traumatized the poor guy for life. Though his parents could’ve been fans of ancient Greek literature, I kind of doubt it (Hymen is also the ancient Greek god of love). I’m not even going to try to reason out Y.Y., Laa Laa, Bobo or Snikki.