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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Taking an American Name

The decision to take an American name when you come to the US is a big decision. Some people just go with nicknames, such as a Shellane will become a Dave. The only headache is on pay day, where the poor payroll department has the check made out to Shellane Chang for example, where everybody knows them by Shellang Chang. My Mother who did payroll has many similar stories. Another one was at a Christmas party they had a drawing based on the names from payroll, so when the CEO called the name, nobody, not even the person knew who that was. His supervisor finally pointed it out (the person was not expecting his real name to be called).

Other people will in their legal name use an American name as their middle name to avoid issues. I understand some of my wife's cousins have done this. Others choose an American name as a nickname, the problem is some names with unfortunate assocations can be chosen. I could go with examples here, but anything I write will get me in trouble. Bottom line is it's important to check with a couple of Americans before choosing an American name. Same idea as picking a child's name, my wife and I made picking our daughter's name into a big project (our requirements were one that is not that popular, but not to unique, good meaning, and can be easily pronounced by Chinese speakers). If you are thinking of getting a tattoo of a Chinese Character, have a native or two Chinese speaker double check to make sure you are not getting one you will regret, or is in the opposite of Chinglish. Would that be EngChin?

My opinion is immigrants if possible should keep their native name, since it has a lot of meaning. With Chinese, if they change their last name to an American one, that is pretty strange. I know of only one person who did that, and their reason was it helps in traveling to China. My wife's comments on this were sure... Her guess was a bankruptcy or something.

This was just in the news, where a Texas Representative said foreigners should get an American name for easier pronunciation. That person is now apologizing... Texas rep apologies for remarks on Asian names - Asssociated Press.

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