What’s in a name?

A while ago, I’ve noticed a few articles about names lately: “My Starbucks name” from The Economist, “Pronunciation Pronouncement” from KQED, and “A Quvenzhane by Any Other Name… (Storified)” from NPR. All three articles resonated with me. I don’t have a Western name. My name is a romanization of my given name.

Places like Starbucks that ask for a person’s name give me a headache. I understand that stores do this to create a friendly environment. But it makes me uncomfortable. Why else would I need to come up with a “Starbucks name” so my name doesn’t get mangled or mispronounced. It’s easier to come up with a pseudonym.

My name is romanized with the Wade-Giles system (which used to be the only romanization system in Taiwan), which can produce alphabet combinations that are not common in English. The hanyu pinyin method (the romanization standard from China) is also more common in the U.S. now. I have been told on occasion that my romanized name does not “look” Chinese. On occasion people have pronounced my name in Chinese using hanyu pinyin and use the wrong words. But it doesn’t bother me because mispronunciation is what happens during transliteration. My name in its original form will always have the correct characters and pronunciation.


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