26 September 2002

a Peng by any other name . . .

the new public school year started recently and with it came about 200+ new students i am currently teaching. all of these students want an english name, and so i have been racking brains, web pages, cast lists and any oracles that will help me to complete this daunting task. since my capacity to read names using chinese characters is shaky at best, the homeroom teacher has been kind enough to provide a pinyin-ated listing for 100 of the 200 impatient tykes (all first graders), and i have been at it for the past week or so. most students have three names - the first is their family name followed by one or two given names. names are very important in chinese culture, so in picking a name one must be cognizant of the chinese name's sound and meaning and the english name's sound and meaning. for instance, the english teacher's name at ji che chang (my public school) is Nancy, and she told me that her name acquisition was originally met with hearty objections from her sister. Nancy sounds very much like "nan xi" which means southwest. her sister asked her why she didn't just name herself dongbei ("northeast"). another example (and sorry, Shea, but it must be told again) is Heather's laudable decision to be known as Shea. a lovely name in my estimation. however, it carried with it one small issue in that shea sounds exactly like "shui" which means "who" in chinese. so the first few days introducing her to marketowners and fellow teachers proved interesting, a sort of "who's on first, what's on second" feel. i'll give you a second to recreate the conversation in your mind's eye. "ta shi shea" (lit: she is who?). "wo bu zhidao" (lit: i don't know). "bu shi. ta shi shea" (see above). "wo gaosu ni le. wo bu renshi ta" (i told you, i don't know this woman). it was an interesting few days. i still catch myself in pockets of confusion about it, but i'm learning.

this all brings me to my request for help: i have 5 boys all with the given name Peng (sounds like pung with a rising tone) and i have no idea what to name them. so here is your big chance to name a child whom you don't have to put up with through adolescence. thoughts?

in hopes that you are well,

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