Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"Ko" *is* pretty difficult.
April 9, 2009 2:08 PM   Subscribe

Chinese is a rather difficult language. That's why Rep. Betty Brown (R), of Texas, suggests that Asians change their names to something "that’s easier for Americans to deal with." Via.
posted by Ms. Informed (240 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm so glad Congresspeople Say the Darndest Things got picked up for the new season.
posted by mathowie at 2:10 PM on April 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


People with hard names are obviously not americans, because no american would be that silly.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:13 PM on April 9, 2009


What the fuck is difficult about one and two-syllable word? Consonant, vowel. Worst case scenario is two vowels. I can see how this is really a stretch for the woman's intellect.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:13 PM on April 9, 2009


Was that Betti Braun? Bettie Browne?

Damn, you honkies have hard-to-figure-out names. Why can't you come up with a simpler writing system that doesn't put so much emphasis on guessing homonyms?
posted by ardgedee at 2:13 PM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


-facepalm-

I'm going to be over here, pretending that this didn't happen, and that there aren't idiots in my country.
posted by strixus at 2:13 PM on April 9, 2009


*cries*
posted by Chan at 2:14 PM on April 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


"The exchange occurred late Tuesday as the House Elections Committee heard testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.

...

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: “Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”"

Weren't you listening? They already tried that, and it doesn't work. The idiocy is almost more appalling than the casual prejudice. Almost.
posted by box at 2:15 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Issues involving non-whites seem to concern her a lot.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:16 PM on April 9, 2009


I hope she never runs into Chthulu or any of his (its?) people.
posted by spicynuts at 2:16 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


For the record I did read the article before posting, but I suppose my immediate rage reaction made me skip over the real meat in with the chaff:

Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.

I was wondering how this would be giving Asian voters problems because it's not as if they write the damn characters down on the voting form.

I suppose the thing to do would be to inform Asian persons that they needed to choose only ONE name for legal purposes. And maybe it would be best not to immediately suggest it should be the AMERICAN one.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:16 PM on April 9, 2009


Maybe something like "Ching Chong Ding Dong"?
posted by mazola at 2:16 PM on April 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


“Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?”


maybe I'm a little slow, but isn't that like the main feature of names?
posted by doobiedoo at 2:17 PM on April 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


My Chinese wife suggests Betty Brown change her name to something that’s easier for Americans to deal with, like "Ignorant Bigoted Shithead Betty Brown"

Fuck you, Betty Brown.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:18 PM on April 9, 2009 [53 favorites]


Let's just call everyone "Bob." Everyone.
posted by owtytrof at 2:21 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


My father's immigrant ancestors were required to drop a couple letters from their german name. I'm amazed how often people get my name 'wrong' 'right'.
posted by nomisxid at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2009


Maybe something like "Ching Chong Ding Dong"?
posted by mazola at 5:16 PM on April 9 [+] [!]


What does that have to do with ...?
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:22 PM on April 9, 2009


Chinese is pretty hard.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:23 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a white American who has had his bog-common French/Scottish last name mangled and torn in every possible way for the last few decades allow me ask Betty Brown to shut the fuck up already.
posted by The Whelk at 2:24 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


If she thinks Asian names are hard, maybe she should move up North. You haven't seen confusing names until you've seen some of the Polish names. Names like Krzyzewski. Suddenly "Wang" and "Ko" seem pretty simple, huh?
posted by explosion at 2:25 PM on April 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


You're missing the money quote...

They want this to just be about race,” Berry said.
posted by rdr at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2009


I know a graduate student in my department whose name is the same two-letter syllable repeated twice. She is Chinese. It is more easily pronounceable than MY name.
posted by kldickson at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2009


What goddman year is it? 1951?
posted by GuyZero at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Brown Betty (apple) yum.
posted by longsleeves at 2:26 PM on April 9, 2009


I'd just like to say that for every Texan who agrees with her, there are at least .1 of us who don't.
posted by Avenger at 2:28 PM on April 9, 2009 [20 favorites]


Well, at least we're not talking about Chinese arithmetic. That's some hard shit right there.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:29 PM on April 9, 2009


Uh, not to break up the two minute hate, but what I think she means is that Asians frequently have a transliterated name that's on documents, and another name that they go by (either translated or new). Certainly, it's dumbassery to say "Why don't all y'all go by Bob?" instead of saying, well, we should probably look at how we record and link governmental documents.
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2009


> Let's just call everyone "Bob." Everyone.

George Foreman.
posted by ardgedee at 2:30 PM on April 9, 2009


do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens

Ew. They are AMERICAN citizens, lady.

I once had one of those nice, little-old-ladies who keep the voting books turn to her fellow poll worker after being frustrated by my hyphenated name and loudly say "Well, I don't see why anyone would want to do that!".

I have been considering just legally changing it to Arkham (or Thirteen) but that would probably bring a whole new set of problems...
posted by JoanArkham at 2:31 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hank Hill: So, are you Chinese or Japanese?
Kahn Souphanousinphone: I live in California last twenty years, but first come from Laos.
Hank Hill: Huh?
Khan Souphanousinphone: Laos. We Laotian.
Bill Dauterive: The ocean? What ocean?
Kahn Souphanousinphone: We are Laotian. From Laos, stupid! It's a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. It's between Vietnam and Thailand, okay? Population 4.7 million.
Hank Hill: So, are you Chinese or Japanese?
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:32 PM on April 9, 2009 [39 favorites]


Guys, she's a "Defender of the American Dream." So we should cut her some slack. She's probably tired from all the defendering or defenestration she has to do.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:32 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And that, as they say, is what a shithole Texas is all about.
posted by plexi at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2009



Chinese is pretty hard.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:23 PM on April 9 [+] [!]


So, uh, hipster racism, actual racism ... ?
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Don't fuck with the Wongs!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:33 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


strixus:
-facepalm-

I'm going to be over here, pretending that this didn't happen, and that there aren't idiots in running my country.


FTFY.
Or should it be "ruining"?
posted by yiftach at 2:34 PM on April 9, 2009


Funnily enough, two Taiwanese co-workers of mine, several jobs ago, did just this, and apparently it was pretty common in Taiwan that upon starting to learn English, everyone would pick an "English" name out of a book. The names were chosen purely by aesthetics, without relation to their Chinese names.

And, for different reasons, this is what Catholics do at confirmation.

And France and several another European countries regulate the names parents can give their children.

But none of that excuses this demeaning and bigoted request by Betty Brown, which implies that Asian names are just meaningless sounds and Asians are somehow not "real" Americans.
posted by orthogonality at 2:34 PM on April 9, 2009


Click here to learn more about District 4.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:34 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let's just call everyone "Bob." Everyone.

I think Bob's on to something there.

posted by Bob at 5:36 PM on April 9 [+] [!]
posted by Horace Rumpole at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Upset with her loss of flexibility in her later years, Betty brown discovers new and interesting ways to enjoy the taste of her own foot.
posted by aftermarketradio at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2009


> The names were chosen purely by aesthetics, without relation to their Chinese names.

My Chinese buddy's brother's English name is Boris. He sometimes tells people he's Russian just to fuck with them.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:37 PM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


You better learn to pronounce the names of your new landlords America.
posted by tkchrist at 2:37 PM on April 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


She's a state rep, not a congressperson.

Also, Chinese names are pretty easy to say. I guess you could have trouble figuring out how to pronounce initials like "zh" and "c" from reading them, though.
posted by delmoi at 2:38 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to defend the idea of making people change their names to vote or whatever she is suggesting, but as someone who works with dozens of people all over the world every day, being able to pronounce names from other languages can be difficult. Not all languages have the same set of sounds, and there are often names that are either non-obvious phonetically or completely unpronounceable without using sounds outside of one's native language.

Where I work lot of people with hard to pronounce names end up going by their initials or picking a random English name to use. I like that because it means I'm not constantly butchering people's names, but obviously it's a big deal to go by a different name and it's up to the individual what they do.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:39 PM on April 9, 2009


If she ever comes across a Thai name like Pornpong, she'd probably cry indecency.

But "Texas" kind of says it all.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2009


So, uh, hipster racism, actual racism ... ?
posted by Comrade_robot at 2:33 PM


Don't ask me, I wouldn't really know what was going through the artist's head. I do know that I'm easily amused by ridiculous things. I know the fact that I studied Chinese for three years and lived with fellow students in the language program (who were Chinese), Chinese professors, and TAs doesn't exempt me from the racist card, but I like to think I don't actually have the mentality that Chinese is 'all ching chong, wing wong', but I do personally recognize it as silly and thus amusing.

Sorry if the linked cartoon offended, I have been known to be insensitive.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 2:41 PM on April 9, 2009


Some Texans find pride in the state being a last stronghold of things. Even if they aren't something to be particularly proud about.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 2:42 PM on April 9, 2009


Wait until the Sri Lankans move into her district.
posted by GuyZero at 2:44 PM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


They have Daily Mail readers in Texas?
posted by Artw at 2:45 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


What a fucking moron.
posted by Maisie Jay at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2009


Oh, god, I work with a woman who would vote for her just for that. I work in a clinic that has a lot of international patients. When they're SE Asian names, she often degenerates into making silly noises instead of calling patients' names. When I told her it sounded pretty insulting from where I was, she told me it must not be a problem for them because 'they smile, so they must understand how hard it is!'
posted by cobaltnine at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why. As far as I can tell, it does nothing but cause confusion when people are trying to handle paperwork. "Your name is Kyung! That's a perfectly good name! Why are you telling me that your name is 'Daniel'?"

Of course, when it comes to malleable, fungible, swap-'em-with-your-friends names, they've got nothing on Nigerians.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2009


But "Texas" kind of says it all.

Eat it. Texas has a full spectrum of people and viewpoints. This lady is from a subset that is rapidly becoming the outlier, thankfully.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:49 PM on April 9, 2009 [32 favorites]


Several Chinese people in my department have tried to adopt "American" names. For whatever reason they usually pick really unique names that haven't been commonly used for a few decades. Examples include: Oliver, Violet, and Cedric.
posted by sararah at 2:50 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that’s easier for Americans to deal with?

Interestingly, it is much more innocent if you change the punctuation just a little:

"Can’t you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes. That’s easier for Americans to deal with."
posted by sour cream at 2:50 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The two Chinese people I know are named Wang and Chung. If you can't pronounce those, you really have a problem.

Side note - I really hope they get married and decide to hyphenate.
posted by desjardins at 2:50 PM on April 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


Was the issue that Asians may have multiple names (legal: transliteration; informal: common English name), or because it was hard to understand the transliteration due to accents and poor attempts at transliteration? Getting excited about racist old white ladies is fun, but I want to make sure I'm doing it right.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Terrell is the home of the Terrell State Hospital, a "certified, psychiatric inpatient hospital" run by the state, and a punchline for jokes throughout north Texas.
In case that gives you any further insight into Betty Brown.
posted by katemonster at 2:54 PM on April 9, 2009


Well, "alasdair" is Scots Gaelic for "Alexander" which means "Leader of Men" so consulting this list of chinese names I'm going to plump for ZHENG 正 which means "just, proper" or "government" for my Chinese name.

Hi! I'm Zheng! Who are you?
posted by alasdair at 2:54 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


posted by Burhanistan Texas has a full spectrum of people and viewpoints. This lady is from a subset that is rapidly becoming the outlier, thankfully.

Indeed. Perhaps Texans will change Rep. Betty Brown's name to, "The Former Rep. Betty Brown."
posted by mattdidthat at 2:56 PM on April 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


I don't see what the big deal is about taking a new name that's easier to pronounce. Why, Betty Brown herself was born Betty Fuckingracistdumbassshitforbrains, but that triple-s in the middle always tripped everyone up, so she did the most considerate thing for her fellow citizens and changed it.
posted by scody at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


She should learn chinese instead.
posted by cazoo at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]



Eat it. Texas has a full spectrum of people and viewpoints. This lady is from a subset that is rapidly becoming the outlier, thankfully.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:49 PM on April 9



right cuz everyone knows white is all colors!
posted by plexi at 2:57 PM on April 9, 2009


"your citizens"

Those two words, telling us that this Rep's (and the legions like her) automatic reaction to Asians-Americans as "foreign," make me see red.

Lady, this is testimony about people with VOTING problems. That means they VOTE in the US, probably in YOUR district. Which means they are US CITIZENS. Not Ko's citizens, not China's citizens, not Asian citizens, not any other type of citizen. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA citizens. Urrrrrrrrrgh.
posted by shen1138 at 2:58 PM on April 9, 2009 [22 favorites]


How about the Republican Party change their name to something Americans can understand better? I suggest the Glorious Red Army of the Real American People's Grand Old Plenum for the Betterment of Mandatory Bipartisanship. Equality for all!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:59 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I hope she never runs into Chthulu or any of his (its?) people.

First of all, The Thing-That-Cannot-Be-Described is spelled Cthulhu. Get it right.

Second ... dude? It's Texas. How do we know this woman won't pull her mask off and reveal herself as one of the Deep Ones?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:59 PM on April 9, 2009


My Chinese wife
Wait a minute... is that legal?
My Chinese wife suggests
Wait a minute... is that legal?
posted by Flunkie at 3:00 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Eat it. Texas has a full spectrum of people and viewpoints. This lady is from a subset that is rapidly becoming the outlier, thankfully.

Stuff that rudeness. "Becoming the outlier" but not there yet, buddy. I know several native Texans, none of whom are like Ms. Brown, and was just making a point regarding general attitudes (which even my Texan friends will comment upon when I speak to them).
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:01 PM on April 9, 2009


She's so heavy, she has more some unpronounceable names than a Chinese phone book!
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:05 PM on April 9, 2009


"I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why. As far as I can tell, it does nothing but cause confusion when people are trying to handle paperwork. "Your name is Kyung! That's a perfectly good name! Why are you telling me that your name is 'Daniel'?""

Yeah, my dad goes through this with his students every semester. "I can call you Bruce if you want, but it's just as easy as calling you Jong."
posted by klangklangston at 3:10 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


This made me very sad today. ...largely because it heralds another chorus from my friends and relations: "WHY are you still in TEXAS?!"

Bleagh.
posted by Neofelis at 3:11 PM on April 9, 2009


Betty Brown has angered the gods!!! (or possibly the Asian cartel) North Texas is burning! Revelation is upon us!
posted by Benway at 3:14 PM on April 9, 2009


As a white American who has had his bog-common French/Scottish last name mangled and torn in every possible way for the last few decades allow me ask Betty Brown to shut the fuck up already.

I'm right there with you -- my ultra-WASPy English surname gets consistently mispronounced.

Also: one of my best friend when I was growing up had the last name "Pawelkiewicz", and I not only knew how to say it when I was six, I knew how to spell it. Is she suggesting the bulk of the population is actually dumber than a six-year-old?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:16 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well bless her heart. And God bless the Texas Lege. But most of all, may God bless the soul of Molly Ivins.
posted by Nelson at 3:18 PM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


I work with a lot of people from India. They have long names, but they're perfectly pronounceable if you're willing to actually read the name. I have gotten to the point I take a bit of pride in being able to roll names like Chattopadhyay, Kanakamedala, Balasubramaniam, Vaidyanathan or Rajapurkar off casually. I have coworkers who will refuse to try, and it always makes me feel embarrassed to work with people who are incapable of that small courtesy to our peers.

Not being willing to pronounce people's names is very dehumanizing.
posted by winna at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2009 [22 favorites]


I had an employee that did the multiple name thing as an effort to assimilate. The company knows him as Leo but everyone around called him Vang, because that was his name.

It's not that fucking hard Betty.
posted by quin at 3:22 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]



I'm right there with you -- my ultra-WASPy English surname gets consistently mispronounced.


Friend of mine has a nice, faintly airstocratic ring to it. He grew up in Texas and everyone's mangled it at one point, most famously his family's priest. During a Eulogy. For his Grandfather.

Twice.
posted by The Whelk at 3:23 PM on April 9, 2009


Because it's a slow day at work, and because I miss my job as an analyst in the Texas Lege, here's some info on bills that Betty has sponsored/authored.

During the current session:

HB 125 would require that voters present ID before being allowed to vote. (Scheduled for public hearing; also introduced in 2007.)

HB 363 would prohibit marriage licenses from being issued until it's proven that the parties aren't already currently married. (Went nowhere in committee; also introduced in 2007.)

HB 418 would change (i.e., eliminate) the Texas residency status of kids who have been enrolled in and have graduated from public or private high schools and who have lived in the state for at least three years, for the purposes of university admissions. (Referred to committee in March.)

HB 419 would exempt that cities with a population of fewer than 5,000 from providing at least one ADA-compliant polling station in local/statewide elections (Referred to committee in February; also introduced in 2007.)

HB 985 would require those convicted of a DUI offense, which offense resulted in a death, to pay for a memorial sign for the victim(s). (Voted out of committee. In 2007, she wrote the bill that authorized the program that produces the memorial signs.)

HB 1419 would eliminate the right of potential candidates to amend their applications to run for political office, once they've turned them in. Get it right the first time, yo! (Stuck in committee.)

And my favorite: HB 2390 would allow counties to count and remove early voting ballots on voting machines if those machines are going to be used elsewhere on election day. (Referred to Elections committee.)

And in 2007, she introduced a bill (HB 2780) that would have prohibited anyone but the parent to give consent to give "psychotropic drugs" to foster kids. (Um, most parents don't make medical decisions for their children in foster care. That's, you know, why they're in foster care. So maybe we overmedicate young kids, but this would basically have eliminated foster kids' access to antidepressants and other drugs that could maybe help them overcome an early childhood defined by shitty parenting. Gah.)

She's a keeper!
posted by mudpuppie at 3:23 PM on April 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


the words "surname with" vanished into the ether between preview and comment.
posted by The Whelk at 3:24 PM on April 9, 2009


Hey, if name are too difficult for her maybe she should suggest something easier, like... numbers?
"Hey, Foreign Looking Guy #3451, tell Foreign Looking Woman #6421 I've been waiting for my bill now for almost half an hour!"

That said - I had a friend who studied Chinese at the university, and when he spent one year over there he had to pick a completely new, Chinese name that was unrelated to his own; all paperwork and official documents only related to that name. It seemed to be standard practice as they were simply not equipped or willing to deal with Latin letters...
posted by PontifexPrimus at 3:25 PM on April 9, 2009


Oh, and it occurs to me that if the voter ID bill she's been trying so hard to pass actually passed, the difficulty of pronouncing the names would be moot. I mean, poll workers would have it right there in front of them on the ID.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:26 PM on April 9, 2009


Betty Brown has angered the gods!!! (or possibly the Asian cartel) North Texas is burning! Revelation is upon us!

My wife was on a flight out of DFW a couple of weeks ago. As they taxied, several of the passengers noticed a smell of burning rubber and alerted the flight attendants. Soon thereafter, the pilot got on the PA and announced to the cabin, "Don't worry about the odor, folks. That's just what North Texas smells like."
posted by mr_roboto at 3:26 PM on April 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Some threads really do make this place look like Free Republic or AR15.com for lefties.

P.S. I'm a lefty.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:26 PM on April 9, 2009


I have a classmate from Taiwan named See Wai. For some reason, ALL my instructors continue to call her See. I don't get it. I mean, her name is super easy for an English speaker to get pretty close to right. But I guess English speakers can't handle that there are two separate parts of her name? But like, aren't Betty Sue or Billy Bob as all-American as it gets?
posted by serazin at 3:26 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


(To clarify, See Wai is her given name, not her given name and her family name combined.)
posted by serazin at 3:28 PM on April 9, 2009


I understand her point completely. After all, names such as Bobby Joe, Billy Joe, Mary Jo, Betty Jo are much more identifiable than them darn foreign names.
posted by ob at 3:30 PM on April 9, 2009


Serazin, my name is Stephen Alexander (last name redacted). Nobody calls me anything but Steve. If I saw "Betty Sue Johnson" on a piece of paper, I'd assume she went by "Betty" until she told me otherwise. When 2 names are used, there's usually a hyphen to indicate: "Billy-Bob."
posted by explosion at 3:32 PM on April 9, 2009


I get ya Stephen Alexander, but See Wai and her classmates have corrected our instructors numerous times, and they tenaciously stick to See. Maybe that happens to you too? I'm actually not sure how two named people are generally treated, but her continual ignored corrections struck me as annoying.
posted by serazin at 3:34 PM on April 9, 2009


My Chinese buddy's brother's English name is Boris. He sometimes tells people he's Russian just to fuck with them.

Why would that fuck with them? Wouldn't they just assume he's from Siberia or one of the other eastern provinces?

Wait until the Sri Lankans move into her district.

The great thing about following cricket is you learn to pronounce Sri Lankan names and end up appearing way more multi-cultural than you actually are.

The two Chinese people I know are named Wang and Chung.

Do they get down tonight?

Sorry

(The only problem I've ever had with Chinese names are where the orthography isn't one I know/expect; e.g. Tsui = Choi. I find eastern European names (e.g. Polish) way, way harder than most east Asian names I've run into).
posted by rodgerd at 3:34 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


How fucking quaint. You don't get out of the country club much, do you Ms. Brown?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:36 PM on April 9, 2009


This lady reminds me of the time I went abroad. I'm in Switzerland, near the Alps, rolling green hills, seems like Heidi will pop her head around any corner now, et cetera.

I meet this woman. She's old and white and from Texas, and she's really excited to talk to someone else who speaks English. She says, "I got here on a sweepstakes! I won a contest and now I'm here! Isn't that great! It's so beautiful here!" She's excited and rambles on for a minute or two. At the end, she leans in secretively, and whispers, "You know what's strange about this place?"
"No," I say.
With a mix of concern and wonder, she says, "they don't take dollars here," leans back in conspiratorial satisfaction, does that strange nod-your-head wag-your-eyebrows You Think About That Now gesture.
I say, "oh," smile politely, and walk away.

--

I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why. As far as I can tell, it does nothing but cause confusion when people are trying to handle paperwork.

Here's my long-standing argument this. It's much more complicated but this is what I'll write right now.

1) Asian-Americans don't really have a coherent culture right now separate from Asian culture. Most Asian-Americans are second-generation, sometimes third generation or more if they're from the west coast; there aren't that many Asian-American rappers, writers, singers, etc. that are distinctly Asian-American. There's no rallying culture to group around, unlike black culture, which has had a rich and flourishing history. There are no strong Asian-American role models in the media.

2) In addition, racism in the US has mostly been a black vs. white issue for a long time, obviously. There's never any question to whether or not blacks are American or not -- the question of racism against blacks perpetuated by whites rarely takes the form of 'go back to your country' but rather 'you're different'. It's not a nationalistic but a biological/cultural discrimination that happens. And while racism against blacks is very much still prevalent (I fuckin' the the term 'post-racial America'), it's a familiar topic, and therefore one that's actively on its way to resolution.

In contrast, Asian-americans are called Asian-americans, not called 'yellows' or whatever nickname that alludes to skin chroma and not nationality. AAs are tied to a different nationality and by association a different culture, which means that there's an added nationalism present in processes of discrimination. This is why nobody will ask a black person 'where are you from?' and expect a country within Africa as an answer, while people will often ask an Asian-American 'where are you from' to see if they're Japanese/Korean/Chinese/Indian/Pakistani/etc. There's an added element of othering -- 'you're from another country'.

Moreover, the relatively recent influx of Asian Americans into the US means that mostly second-generation and first-generation Asian-Americans are prevalent in society, which means that Asian-Americans are perceived as having an incomplete mastery of English.

3) So now there's not only a discrimination based on skin color and differing culture, but also based on perceived nationality and linguistic differences. In addition, there's no stable, defined Asian-American culture to rally around and to share similar experiences with.

Combine this with a general ignorance of Asian-Americans by average Americana and an inability to get past crude stereotypes as well as an inability to distinguish between Asian-Americans. Note how Betty Brown talks about Asian-Americans but specifically mentions Chinese all of a sudden? My point exactly.

The natural consequences of these factors is that most Asian-Americans experience a multi-pronged discrimination that can't be resolved any other way, than to stick to their 'traditional' culture of their 'country of origin', which a) they may not be so familiar with anymore and b) is the reason that they experience this discrimination in the first place.

So what happens is that most Asian-Americans, whether first or second generation, try to go down the path of adjustment, or 'assimilation'. Familiar English names are adopted in the hopes that they'll be treated like any other American. If most people thought like Metafilter, but there wouldn't be any problem. The fact is that the additional paperwork confusion is usually way worth living in the Midwest or somewhere away where a general racial awareness might exist and having to explain patiently while tamping down your anger, why your name sounds different and how 'Ching chong' is not an acceptable joke, nor is it funny by any means, nor are you slit-eyed, etc. etc. etc.

-

Chinese is pretty hard.

-

"The two Chinese people I know are named Wang and Chung."

Do they get down tonight?

Sorry


Oh yeah, by the way, you guys? The wink-wink-I-know-I'm-being-racist-but-isn't-it-still-funny-and-oh-yeah-my-Chinese-friend-thought-it-was-funny-too-so-it-can't-be-racist-can-it shit? Yes, you are still being racist, sorry.
posted by suedehead at 3:45 PM on April 9, 2009 [30 favorites]


That kid named Barrack Obama better effing change his name or he'll never get... oh wait.


(you know, setting policy decisions aside as it really isn't pertinent to the topic/point, it is friggen amazing someone named Barrack Obama got elected president)
posted by edgeways at 3:47 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also: one of my best friend when I was growing up had the last name "Pawelkiewicz", and I not only knew how to say it when I was six, I knew how to spell it.

Evidently not. It's Pawełkiewicz.
posted by jock@law at 3:50 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Edgeways, it's one r. Barack. Not like the thing that soldiers live in.
posted by suedehead at 3:56 PM on April 9, 2009


Note how Betty Brown talks about Asian-Americans but specifically mentions Chinese all of a sudden? My point exactly.

Not to defend her too much, but she was addressing a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans.
posted by grouse at 3:58 PM on April 9, 2009


The article doesn't really go into much detail on what she's suggesting, but it seems to be simply that people with two separate names (i.e. a Chinese name, say, plus an American one), should consider sticking with one or the other--she'd seem to prefer the latter--for all their official paperwork, just to avoid confusion at the polls. If that is indeed what she's suggesting, it's really not that terrible an idea.

It is pretty clear, though, that she hasn't got a very firm grasp of either half of the phrase Asian-American.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:01 PM on April 9, 2009


You know, Betty Brown looks a bit like Betty White. It would be easier for me if she would just change her name to that.
posted by trip and a half at 4:04 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why.

I've asked a couple of people why they adopted an English name. They said it was just less annoying to go by "Scott" than it was to hear your actual name mangled a hundred times a day.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:08 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it says it all....Representative Brown from Texas? If it ain't from Texas, looking like Texas, smelling like Texas and talking like Texas...then it ain't got a use.
posted by malter51 at 4:13 PM on April 9, 2009


my ultra-WASPy English surname gets consistently mispronounced.

Me too. I kind of enjoy that it gets mispronounced most frequently as "Hernandez," for some reason.
posted by queensissy at 4:14 PM on April 9, 2009


> Why would that fuck with them? Wouldn't they just assume he's from Siberia or one of the other eastern provinces?

Because most people think everyone from Russia is white, and wears a big furry hat.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:17 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I get ya Stephen Alexander, but See Wai and her classmates have corrected our instructors numerous times, and they tenaciously stick to See. Maybe that happens to you too? I'm actually not sure how two named people are generally treated, but her continual ignored corrections struck me as annoying.

Oh, yeah, that's just plum rude. The place I last worked, I was there for 11 months, and despite never once signing an email as "Stephen", I could never get them to call me "Steve." Not even my mother calls me "Stephen." Due to not wanting to correct superiors, I kind of let it slide, but it annoyed me such that people could continue to read "Steve" and then reply to "Stephen."

I think in this light, the "See" vs. "See Wai" is less a matter of racism, and more just general rudeness and the fact that a lot of people are too stubborn to change their ways or apologize, even when wrong.
posted by explosion at 4:17 PM on April 9, 2009


I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why.

I think if I moved to, say, Korea, I could see myself picking out a new name. It would be fun.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 4:19 PM on April 9, 2009


Because most people think everyone from Russia is white, and wears a big furry hat.

Well, if the latter isn't true, it ought to be. Those hats are great.

The former? Why would the drink be called a "White Russian" rather than just a "Russian," if there weren't darker Russians as well?
posted by explosion at 4:19 PM on April 9, 2009


How do we know this woman won't pull her mask off and reveal herself as one of the Deep Ones?

She lives in Dallas---too far inland. Now if you'd have said a shoggoth* or something, I'd grant your point.

*...vaster than a subway train, a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self-luminous and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and unforming as pustules of greenish light...
posted by bonehead at 4:21 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does Betty Brown freak out when she meets men named Skip? Because I'm pretty sure all the guys named Skip weren't named that by their mothers.
posted by vespabelle at 4:21 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some things about Chinese are hard, some are easy.
posted by mlis at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2009


Well, at least she's first asking politely if she can suppress your vote. Most Republicans don't even bother to extend that courtesy. So that's one point in her favor.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:26 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes. Why don't they change their names to something straightforwardly English like Cholmondeley Featherstonehaugh-Marjoribanks?

(No, sorry, you're pronouncing it wrong in your head. No, that's not it either. No...don't even think about that. Uh-uh. Oh, just give up.)
posted by yoink at 4:29 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I went to high school with a guy named Featherstonehaugh. I had totally forgotten about him. What a name. Commonly pronounced Feather-stoner. (incorrectly, but commonly)
posted by GuyZero at 4:34 PM on April 9, 2009


Gweilos - what can you do?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:34 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Guy Zero, was he from upstate New York, like Albany County?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:36 PM on April 9, 2009


Farve
posted by juiceCake at 4:36 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yoink, you rule. Chumley!
posted by queensissy at 4:37 PM on April 9, 2009


I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why.

For the world of Betty Browns, probably. I quite like it though - I especially like it when "mixed-race" children are given names from two or different languages from different continents. Unless you're of the belief that culture should be tied to "race", it's all good.

Oh yeah, by the way, you guys? The wink-wink-I-know-I'm-being-racist-but-isn't-it-still-funny-and-oh-yeah-my-Chinese-friend-thought-it-was-funny-too-so-it-can't-be-racist-can-it shit? Yes, you are still being racist, sorry.

I'm also extremely tired of ironic prejudice, but with the mocking of the sounds of Chinese language thing, I've decided (I'm Chinese by ethnicity) to mentally separate that from racism. It's a mocking of the sounds of a language, which shouldn't be tied to "race". It shows the mocker to be ignorant enough as to not understand that all languages sound strange to those who don't speak it - and disrespectful and narrow-minded enough to mock such differences. I find that better for my own mental health, if nothing else. Racism hurts more.
posted by dolca at 4:40 PM on April 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Why would the drink be called a "White Russian" rather than just a "Russian," if there weren't darker Russians as well?

White Russians were the monarchists during and after the revolution.
posted by rodgerd at 4:42 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wang Chung.
posted by rodgerd at 4:43 PM on April 9, 2009


Cholmondeley Featherstonehaugh-Marjoribanks

Chumley Fawnshaw Marchbanks.
posted by scody at 4:47 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


>I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why.

Then you need to think a little harder, Faint of Butt. They aren't just doing it for fun, or to make life harder for others. suedehead lays out some good reasons, but I think ROU_Xenophone hits the biggest reason: they just get tired of dealing with it.

My fiancee is Korean; her name is Hee Jin. It's pronounced exactly as it reads. There aren't any tones or whatever; there is no reason an English speaker can't immediately understand and say it, especially after hearing it spoken. Yet...since she came to the US when she was 16, she's always had problems with Americans pronouncing it. They try to overdo it; I think this may be a case of misplaced politeness and trying a bit too hard to be sensitive. She used to wait tables and said there was always at least a moment of confusion she could see flicker across people's faces when she introduced herself. She just got tired of all the little irritations surrounding it, and started introducing herself as Christine (a name she chose because she liked the sound).

It sounds like a small thing, but if people constantly were getting your name wrong, or pausing before saying it to take extra care, or the thousand other small annoyances, you might consider just going by a different name too.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:48 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


And that, as they say, is what a shithole Texas is all about.
posted by plexi at 4:33 PM on April 9


But "Texas" kind of says it all.
posted by cmgonzalez at 4:40 PM on April 9


It's ironic that a post calling a politician out for being xenophobic and insensitive would elicit comments like these indicting an entire group of people.
posted by Daddy-O at 4:53 PM on April 9, 2009 [18 favorites]


My last name is a four-letter English word, and not an unusual one. People quite routinely (1/3 to 1/2 the time) try to stick extra letters in there for reasons entirely beyond my comprehension. Maybe I should look into changing it to something simpler, like youfuckingilliterateboob.
posted by dilettante at 4:54 PM on April 9, 2009


Chumley Fawnshaw Marchbanks.

Incorrect. I'm afraid that means being buried head first in the quad while old 'Badger' Beauchamp gives you six of the best with his mashie-niblick.
posted by yoink at 4:57 PM on April 9, 2009


Why would the drink be called a "White Russian" rather than just a "Russian," if there weren't darker Russians as well?

As rodgerd notes above, this has nothing to do with skin color; the cocktail (which isn't originally Russian anyway) was named after the White movement, which opposed the Bolshevikes (i.e., the Reds) during the civil war that followed the Russian Revolution. Before that, the color white had long been associated with monarchies and pro-monarchist movements in Russia and parts of Europe.
posted by scody at 4:57 PM on April 9, 2009


Incorrect. I'm afraid that means being buried head first in the quad while old 'Badger' Beauchamp gives you six of the best with his mashie-niblick.

Curses! It seems the book I read before moving to England 20 years ago, which used that very same name as an example of crazy British pronunciations, lied to me on purpose!
posted by scody at 4:59 PM on April 9, 2009


They should adopt real American names like Quetzalcoatl or Tatanka Iyotanka or Goyahkla.
posted by qvantamon at 4:59 PM on April 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


I asked a group of my Taiwanese colleagues once why they had the English names they did, and when they started using them. Most of them had picked their own names at some point during school, primarily in order to use them during their English classes. When they dealt with foreigners afterwards it was easy to fall back on that English name as a polite gesture, and that name then stuck with them all the way to their current jobs. I have a Chinese name too, given to me by my Chinese teacher, so that's not all that different.

It would be easy for me to call them by their real names. But I often don't know it at all, because they usually introduce themselves by their English names. I just love how among the myriad "Peter" "Michael" and "William" you get a few odd ones sometimes. My favorite ones so far are Artie, Xavier and Fisher - all great guys who I remember extra fondly for their awesome names!
posted by gemmy at 5:01 PM on April 9, 2009


grr... Bolshevikes
posted by scody at 5:01 PM on April 9, 2009


By the way, with the Chinese name translated into two English words and people only calling you by one of them thing - I hyphenate them. I still use my English name 90% of the time, but when I need to use the Chinese name, it being hyphenated makes it easier for people to understand that it's one name instead of two. They're not hyphenated on my passport though - haven't been up for the hassle and cost of trying to change that.
posted by dolca at 5:06 PM on April 9, 2009


Hi! I'm Zheng! Who are you?
posted by alasdair at 4:54 PM on April 9 [+] [!]
This is a great idea. And all three of my names can be (loosely) translated, at least according to that page... from now on I will be addressed as Hai Bao in all my correspondence with Rep. Brown.
posted by jtron at 5:06 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, laughing because someone's name happens to make a pun is not racist. We pun on English names all the time. What's racist is doing it with contempt or, in general, being a dick about it.

I have a name which no one outside of the English speaking world can pronounce, and which sounds pretty silly when pronounced as-spelled in some countries, and it never bothered me for a second that people would say it and laugh at the silly sound they'd made.

I do think that this is one of those issues that we sometimes tie ourselves up in knots about in rather silly ways. No one thinks it anything but charming that the French call London "Londres," or England "Angleterre," for example, but you often get people scowling and rolling their eyes when they hear someone pronouncing a foreign place name with an English accent rather than the "correct" way.

On the other hand, when you come from the position of power (white, 1st world, English speaking) you have a capacity to inflict harm ("you don't belong," "you're an outsider") in a way that those in relatively powerless positions simply do not. The American tourist can laugh along with the Mexican who mangles his name, while the Mexican immigrant get to feel that his American boss's mispronunciation of his name marks him as the outsider. So I guess it's salutary that we should agonize about these issues--even if in a world where we were all equal we could all laugh at eachother's funny-sounding names without caring a damn.
posted by yoink at 5:10 PM on April 9, 2009 [11 favorites]


This has been mentioned ad infinitum in this thread, but I've just to say...

There are difficult names to pronounce in virtually every language. For example, Glouchester or Worchester - two nice, traditional English names that aren't pronounced like they look. Indeed, English has a pile of words that look the same but aren't pronounced the same - tough, cough, plough and dough, for example, to borrow a few from Dr. Suess.

Yes, it would be easier if all names were easy to spell in your native language. It would be easier if all words were easy to spell in your naitve language. Alas, that is not possible in English. Most people, in the process of learning how to communicate, learn that you need to ask how things are spelled from time to time.

Representative Brown didn't make a merely racist statement, she made a statement in favor of lazy thinking and in favor of language ignorance.

(Plus, if those wacky Japanese picked names with "L" in it, they'd all pronounce them like "R" anyways, further confusing our hapless Texans, amirite?)
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:10 PM on April 9, 2009


I meet this woman. She's old and white and from Texas, and she's really excited to talk to someone else who speaks English. She says, "I got here on a sweepstakes! I won a contest and now I'm here! Isn't that great! It's so beautiful here!" She's excited and rambles on for a minute or two. At the end, she leans in secretively, and whispers, "You know what's strange about this place?"
"No," I say.
With a mix of concern and wonder, she says, "they don't take dollars here," leans back in conspiratorial satisfaction, does that strange nod-your-head wag-your-eyebrows You Think About That Now gesture.
I say, "oh," smile politely, and walk away.


Ha HA! Uneducated people are funny.
posted by palliser at 5:20 PM on April 9, 2009


I just love how among the myriad "Peter" "Michael" and "William" you get a few odd ones sometimes.

Yeah - I guess being less aware of what's commonly acceptable, you feel freer to choose what you like from a wider range. :)

My favorite ones so far are Artie, Xavier and Fisher - all great guys who I remember extra fondly for their awesome names!

Aww... *Hands in pockets, kicks imaginary rock* I wanna be called Xavier.
posted by dolca at 5:21 PM on April 9, 2009


Eat it. Texas has a full spectrum of people and viewpoints. This lady is from a subset that is rapidly becoming the outlier, thankfully.

Stuff that rudeness. "Becoming the outlier" but not there yet, buddy. I know several native Texans, none of whom are like Ms. Brown, and was just making a point regarding general attitudes (which even my Texan friends will comment upon when I speak to them).


In other words, it's perfectly fine to make a statement lumping everyone in one of the most populous states in the US into the same horribly unflattering bucket, until you get called on it, and then the *other* person is rude.

I've said it before, I'll say it again: around here if you say "Jews are all greedy" or "Poles are all stupid", you're (rightly) vilified. If you say "Texans (or, more generally, Southerners) are all racist assholes/gun toting psychos/inbred trailer-park livin' morons", well of course they are.

Hypocrisy...gotta love it.

I know several native Texans

Some of my best friends are black...
posted by kjs3 at 5:21 PM on April 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


Cholmondeley Featherstonehaugh-Marjoribanks

...pronounced "throat-warbler mangrove"
posted by briank at 5:21 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


And that, as they say, is what a shithole Texas is all about.
posted by plexi

right cuz everyone knows white is all colors!
posted by plexi


Oh, I'm so sorry for being such a dumb hick from Texas and can't articulate so masterfully such as that.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:31 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I find that it's easier to prounounce "Burhanistan" as "Bronstein".
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:37 PM on April 9, 2009


My students here in Korea -- all adults, aged from from their mid-twenties to their mid-fifties, employees of one of the biggest corporations here -- tend to want to choose 'western' pseudonyms as given names to use in class. They have been trained by literally decades of English classes that that's what they should do.

The reason for it is that native-speaker English teachers come over to Korea, and have since the beginning, with, in the overwhelming majority of cases, with absolutely no idea about Korea or much of anything outside their freshly-graduated circle of experience back home. That's fine, young people are young and unschooled in much that matters. If they're keen to learn about the country during their year or two here, all to the good.

But the impression that Koreans receive, which seems not entirely inaccurate, sadly, is that Americans or Canadians are simply unable to wrap their brains around Korean names. And it is true that it can be daunting at first, until you start to realize how the patterns work.

So, employers here encourage their teachers -- who mostly teach kids -- to ask the students for or to give them nicknames, and the reinforcement rolls on.

For my part, I tend to suggest to my guys (and they are mostly guys -- engineers and stuff) not to adopt a nickname. In not so few words, I encourage them to develop, to put it bluntly, a 'fuck you' attitude to those who would insist that their own actual names are somehow not good enough or too difficult for some of the more soft-headed specimens they might encounter when doing business or travelling internationally. And I try to help them with the language necessary to explain how names work here to native speakers of English who are interested.

During the half-century Japanese occupation, Koreans were forced, along with other things designed to forcefully sublimate them into Greater Japan, to renounce their family names -- and this is no small matter in this culture, to put it mildly, where family is the most important thing in most people's lives -- and adopt Japanese ones Many killed themselves rather than do so. Forcing kids (let alone adults) to take western names for expediency -- because fresh-off-the-place English teachers can't be bothered to learn now Korean names work -- strikes me as an unpleasant callback to that era.

Of course, if someone really wants to use a western name on their business cards or whatever, because, as others have suggested upthread, they're just too goddamn tired of dealing with dummies, then I'm quite happy to help. I get one or two guys a year asking me to help them choose a western-y given name that they can use on their business cards and when dealing with foreigners.

Which is not to say that suedehead or anyone else above is wrong -- just my perspective on it.

For Koreans who emigrate to western countries? I don't know about that. If my wife and I ever move to Canada to retire or whatever, I'm not sure which way she'll want to go on the matter, but whatever she decides is fine with me, of course.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:37 PM on April 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


it seems to be simply that people with two separate names (i.e. a Chinese name, say, plus an American one), should consider sticking with one or the other--she'd seem to prefer the latter--for all their official paperwork, just to avoid confusion at the polls. If that is indeed what she's suggesting, it's really not that terrible an idea.

My mother was straight out of Korea. She married a third generation English-American man from California. Her name is a combination of Korean first and middle name and an English last name. She has no reason to change. I would imagine every single Asian American with an "odd" mix of names has their own personal reasons for having the name that they do. This is what happens when you have a cosmopolitan society.

Then again her name is Chong, so I imagine she doesn't need to change. Since "it all sounds like Ching Chong Ding Dong," I guess her name has a leg up.

For me, all of the racism I've ever encountered was in public school, but in a somewhat opposite manner. Simple things like, "Oh, I heard you were Korean; I thought you would talk funny." or "I don't understand. If you're Korean, why is your name Joseph B[redacted]s?" Maybe they were all let down by having nothing to make fun of.

Also, my mother's maiden name is cool. Joseph Oh would be a nice name. If it actually were my name, I'd be pretty insulted at the idea of changing it to satisfy some lazy bigot.
posted by effwerd at 5:41 PM on April 9, 2009


The high school I went to in Houston had a ton of Asian kids. Sometimes the school newspaper would have articles about the English names their parents had given them.

As an aside, this is another thing that's odd about Rep. Brown's comment -- the vast majority of Asian kids I knew at school had two names: the first name they were born with, and an English first name. Sometimes the name they were born with was English. It was more rare to find someone who didn't have an English name, and almost always it's because their original name was really easy to pronounce -- my friend Tao, for example, kept his Chinese name. It's almost always the Asian name that appears on the voter ID card though, so I guess Rep. Brown is suggesting they all legally get their name changed?

Anyway. You know how newspapers will have articles about which baby names are most popular... apparently just among white people, since the top entries are always stuff like Jake and Mandy and Ashley and Madison? Well, our school newspaper had an article about what English names Asian parents were choosing for their children. It turns out that, among the Asian kids that had just entered our high school around early 2000, spice-based names were popular. One girl was named Cinnamon, and there were a couple of girls named Vanilla. I thought that was kind of neat once you got past the stripper vibe.

Except then I kept reading and one of the girls was named Vanilla Wang. She was several grades below me, so I have no idea how much she got teased or if she just joked about it. The culture of our school was such that she probably just joked about it.

I hope no one read this far expecting anything deep or thought-provoking.
posted by Nattie at 5:43 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is also, I must mention, another cultural element here, which is that Koreans quite rarely, and never in business situations, call each other by their given names. The equivalent of 'uncle' or 'auntie' or 'older brother' or 'sister' or one of dozens of others are used for people not inside your immediate circle, and only sometimes are given names (Yeong Man, say, for example, where someone's full name would be Park (his family name) Yeong Man (his given name, two syllables) used, and then usually with a mild honorific '시' (-shi) attached, much like people are familiar with the Japanese way of XXX-san to address people.

So, in an international situation, for a Korean, to have someone say 'Just call me Joe! What can I call you?' they are in a conundrum. If he says 'Mr Park' which would reflect a reasonable level of formality from their perspective, they're aware that they're making Joe uncomfortable. If he says 'Call me Yeong Man', he's going to feel weird, because that's a very uncomfortable level of informality, very intimate, and not appropriate for business, especially if there are other Korean people present.

So he's stuck. One of the easiest ways around it is to use a borrowed name, and that can be the western-style informal stand-in for the 'Just call me Joe' crowd.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:45 PM on April 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


ムクギッリカヂー。Figure it out. AND DON'T MISPRONOUNCE IT!
posted by McGuillicuddy at 5:50 PM on April 9, 2009


I've got a Chinese name I was given ages ago that's been used on some official documentation here for convenience. It's a transliteration of my surname, so most friends just call me by my English first name (Jim) which takes a bit of effort because it's not a natural single syllable sound in Mandarin (people tend to want to make it two syllables).
That's fairly common practice with foreign names, though not all; sure I recall some old Communists from Russia who used their full name transliterated. Also gets a bit weird for people from Japan, Korea and Vietnam or other places where your name is or can be written in characters, as the pronunciation is of course completely different. That's of course also true for Chinese people from places where the spoken language isn't Mandarin, like Fujian or Guangdong, but it was worse for non-Chinese PRC citizens like Uyghur and Mongolians, when you couldn't even get a national ID card with your own name in your own language. That's changed now with the second-generation ID cards that came in a few years back IIRC.
On the difficulty of Chinese names in English, it is one thing that comes up when you translate Chinese literature - even the kind of open-minded folk who read foreign fiction often have trouble distinguishing between a lot of characters with names written in hanyu pinyin. There's one book I've always wanted to do that would be a particular nightmare on that score. It's a sweeping historical epic set in one particular northwestern village, focusing on two big clans, so all the characters have one of only two surnames, and then maybe share a "generational name" first character of their personal name, e.g. Wang Jianguo, Wang Jianmin, Wang Jianjun etc.
Lastly, Betty Brown's a bit of a silly sod.
posted by Abiezer at 5:52 PM on April 9, 2009


May I suggest Rep. Betty Brown and her terminally boring name kiss my Asian ass.
posted by casarkos at 5:53 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let me amend that: my American ass.

I was born here, and I pay taxes here too. I can have whatever fucking name I want.
posted by casarkos at 5:54 PM on April 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


i always found it vaguely amusing when foreign students just transliterated their names, and ended up with weird, anachronistic names instead of the handy anglo names they thought they were getting. like "yiao xin" becoming "eugene".

on the other hand, a good friend teaches english as a second language, and her students often choose some bizarre names - the thais, mainly. so, she has students called cartoon, luck, frame, golf, cake, bird, lion and rainbow.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:01 PM on April 9, 2009


And that, as they say, is what a shithole Texas is all about.
posted by plexi


Not cool dude.
posted by nola at 6:09 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Texas is full of amazing folks. This state legislator would be an embarrassing ignoramus no matter where she was from. There's no need to hate on the Lonestar State, so please save your worn-out, tired old hillbilly jokes for another time. Or for never. That'd be okay, too.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:26 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


American here; speak only English. Have traveled quite a bit with 1st generation Asian-Americans and Indian-Americans. Never really thought twice about spelling/pronouncing "Xiaoming" or "Mukhopadhyay," for hotel staff, etc., but maybe I'm unusual in that respect. Not ALL Americans are provincial ninnies, world!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:28 PM on April 9, 2009


Reminds me of Alien Nation, where the Americans gave the Tenctonese names that were "hilarious" to Americans, but the Tectonese had no hope of understanding why until it was too late--like Albert Einstein, Sam Francisco (changed to George once he got the "joke"), Rudyard Kipling, etc.

Maybe we should suggest some names for the Asians, like John Smallberries, John Yaya, and John Bigboote.

Also - Christ, what an asshole.
posted by tzikeh at 6:38 PM on April 9, 2009


or Long Duck Dong.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:45 PM on April 9, 2009


"Hey you, slide face, you're next."
"Who me?"
"Yeah, country of origin?"
"Italy"
"Name?"
"Michelangelo Buonarroti"
"What kind of moniker is that for an American? From now on, you're M.C. Boone"
"Hey, you stamped my hand!"
"That's so if you go out, you can come back in again. Next!"
"Claude Debussy"
"Debussy, you're Clyde Devans"
National Lampoon, Gold Turkey
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:11 PM on April 9, 2009


I've noticed many Asian people that I work with have extremely American sounding first names. Names like Hank or Cindy or Vern. Names that sound more like nicknames. I always thought they must have parents that were probably first generation and wanted their kids to seem like true Americans or something, like they were giving them a leg up or something. It didn't occur to me that maybe they felt pressured into using these names by all the ignorant people they encountered, stumbling over (or insulting them because of) their proper names.
This is really lame, America. Let's try a little harder. What do you say?
posted by orme at 7:11 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ching Chong Ding Dong

And while we railing, can I just say that this is stupid because Chinese doesn't even fucking sound like this?

It's more like 'Shar-SHEEshar charsharshar shar SHIEAR' to my ear. People aren't actually imitating the real sound of the language when they do that CCDD thing - they're being so lazily racist they're not even paying attention to what their ears are reporting.
posted by winna at 7:13 PM on April 9, 2009 [7 favorites]



That's why I didn't use my real metafilter user name, which would have been 'Not Really'. Instead of referring to me as, that idiot Not Really, they would be referring to me as, that idiot Not.
posted by notreally at 7:14 PM on April 9, 2009


Try having Marcoullier as a last name.

Shit, my parents can't even pronounce it correctly.
posted by bpm140 at 7:21 PM on April 9, 2009


Is that with a soft or hard M?
posted by fleetmouse at 7:28 PM on April 9, 2009


Rhymes with 'Dave Coulier.'
posted by box at 7:35 PM on April 9, 2009


Well bless her heart. And God bless the Texas Lege. But most of all, may God bless the soul of Molly Ivins.
posted by Nelson at 3:18 PM on April 9


I really do, from the depths of my heart, wish that Molly had been around to write about this.

Bless you, Molly, wherever you are!
posted by trip and a half at 7:38 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is all well and good, but won't someone think of the mud grass horse?
posted by b1tr0t at 7:53 PM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's more like 'Shar-SHEEshar charsharshar shar SHIEAR' to my ear.

That's Mandarin - I guess the one they're actually mocking is Cantonese, not that they'd know the difference.
posted by dolca at 7:54 PM on April 9, 2009


I'll bet she has trouble with Obama's name as well, given that it's Japanese.
posted by SPrintF at 8:17 PM on April 9, 2009


Man, I like the idea of taking a Chinese name. Michael means "like God", so I'm going with "Jun 君", which means "ruler, supreme".
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:19 PM on April 9, 2009


Oh, a propos names, "Barack" in Hungarian means "peach". The Hungarians think that's hilarious.
posted by Michael Roberts at 8:20 PM on April 9, 2009


"I've noticed many Asian people that I work with have extremely American sounding first names. Names like Hank or Cindy or Vern. Names that sound more like nicknames. I always thought they must have parents that were probably first generation and wanted their kids to seem like true Americans or something, like they were giving them a leg up or something."

For my girlfriend's pal Kelly, it's that when her folks had her and her younger sister a year or two after arriving in America, they let their older daughter, eight-years-old at the time, name her and Stephanie.
posted by klangklangston at 8:39 PM on April 9, 2009


And while we railing, can I just say that this is stupid because Chinese doesn't even fucking sound like this?

Yeah, see, that was largely the point of my post, but apparently for bringing the idea up I am one of the worst (or at least most frequently-pointed to) racists in this thread.

I understand how people could be offended by the link as I offered it, and admittedly within the post it was without context, but considering we are in a thread regarding a Texas authority rather blatantly making statements about how Asians are 'the other' I thought it was fairly appropriate. Because it absolutely ridiculously states that Chinese as a language is something entirely other-- even superbeings can't understand it and can only get as far as 'ching chong wing wong' which, as previously mentioned, is not accurate in any sense for any of the major dialects. Of course, Chinese language =/= Chinese race, but I suppose that little hop was going to be made anyway. I'm not saying that's unreasonable.

I guess I'm just surprised and a little hurt by the reactions in-thread. The links to hipster-racism articles were fine and informative, but frankly the intent of my post had not been to say 'look-at-me-I'm-so-not-racist'. Maybe intent should have been more explicitly offered up. Once again, I understand it could be misconstrued that way, and it is indeed something that should be thought about, but the way in which this 'advice' is offered up, and I've noticed that this seems to be the case in most scenarios, it feels as if it is the accuser's way of saying 'look-at-me-I'm-so-not-racist'. Like it's making it about you being superior over the bad bad racist people rather than actually addressing the issue, and I think it's counter-productive.

Anyway. Small rant, disappointment fading, though not the disappointment in Miss Betty Brown. Moving on.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:48 PM on April 9, 2009


When I lived in South America, I knew this American family. Upon arriving, the kids had adopted Spanish names, so they would fit in. One, whose name is impossible to pronounce in Spanish, called himself Carlos. The local kids renamed him Charles (pronounced Charr-less). The other two soon reverted to their original, English, names.
posted by bentley at 9:06 PM on April 9, 2009


Don't ask me, I wouldn't really know what was going through the artist's head. I do know that I'm easily amused by ridiculous things. I know the fact that I studied Chinese for three years and lived with fellow students in the language program (who were Chinese), Chinese professors, and TAs doesn't exempt me from the racist card, but I like to think I don't actually have the mentality that Chinese is 'all ching chong, wing wong', but I do personally recognize it as silly and thus amusing.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:41 PM on April 9 [+] [!]


I'm a little disappointed at the Texas hate upthread -- there are people in Texas, I am sure, who don't feel that Asian people have funny names and can't really be American. I've lived in a lot of states, and let me tell you that there are a lot of people outside Texas who think Asian people aren't really American and want to know where you're from and if you're planning on heading back there eventually even if you were born here because, look, you're Asian, clearly you're not a _real_ American, because _real_ Americans are white.

But what I am curious about is how a discussion about one Texas legislator said some questionable things turned into "Let's link to some Asian jokes!" I mean, really? Are you thinking that it's not racist if you say it because you know you're not racist? I'm pretty sure Betty Brown doesn't think of herself as racist either. I know some well-meaning, friendly, decent people who have really strange ideas about Asian people. Most of that is ignorance. (And of course there are some bad people with strange ideas about Asian people too.)

There's not a huge difference between saying that all Chinese is 'ching chong, wing wong' and saying that Chinese people have impossible to pronounce names. It's the same basic idea, isn't it? Those weird foreigners with their strange language! Why does it make Rep. Brown racist and you hilarious? If the answer is 'because it's me that's doing it', well, you might want to think about that.

I don't know you, I'm not playing 'cards', and I'm not going to call you racist -- but because the joke doesn't further an ethnic stereotype that affects you, you have the freedom to think that is silly and hilarious.

Me, I think it's in questionable taste to post it in a discussion like this.
posted by Comrade_robot at 9:07 PM on April 9, 2009


My Dutch great-grandparents came off the boat and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to "Americanize" their name. Worst. Decision. Ever. They apparently didn't know English very well (at all?) at the time and picked a short simple verb that quite literally, no one else uses as a surname. The result? Teasing all through elementary, high school, college, even now in my work place. No one knows how to spell it because "no one would have *that* as a last name", and people think my driver's license is fake because surely no one real would pick that last name.

I wish my great-grand parents would have kept the Dutch name. And I hope that no one listens to this dried up old bigot.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:11 PM on April 9, 2009


>Also: one of my best friend when I was growing up had the last name "Pawelkiewicz", and I not only knew how to say it when I was six, I knew how to spell it.

Evidently not. It's Pawełkiewicz.


....Huh?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:30 PM on April 9, 2009


My Dutch great-grandparents came off the boat and for some reason thought it would be a good idea to "Americanize" their name.

My Norwegian forbears did the same thing. Which is how there came to be a clan of fair-haired, blue-eyed Wongs in Wyoming.
posted by scody at 9:33 PM on April 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm just jumping in to point out that Chinese names are, really, not that hard. Mandarin at least. I'm now officially part of the Jong (Zhang) clan, the wife's name is Ray (Rui), my father-in-law's name is Wan-Ching (Qing), I know a couple people named Joe (Zhou), Lou (Liu, it's actually more like "lew", "hew", "jew", but I can't think of an English analog for that right now)...as foreign names go, is Chinese really that hard?

They always manage to mangle my name though. It's always "neck" or "knack", or Nico, Nike, Nay-ke (内科 right, my name is internal medicine). Nick, say the short i, say it, say it! But 9/10 just fail. I normally end up settling for "nayk". I have this whole hand-clap routine down. "You're saying two syllables, count with me...one. Beautiful, call me that!" Anything longer/written and I just give them character transliteration (ni-gu-la-si).

It's all just part of living in a multicultural society, isn't it? We all accept that there are different names and different preferences about them, we work out a way around it, and we deal.
posted by saysthis at 9:47 PM on April 9, 2009


OK, so here is what i am getting from the context: the hearing was about a bill to require identification when voting. Ramey Ko testifies at the hearing, saying Chinese, Japanese and Koreans would be disenfranchised by being required to produce identification:

Ramey Ko...told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver’s license on school registrations.

Wait, what? Is Ko saying that Chinese, Japanese and Korean Americans are more likely to have names that are not their legal names on their drivers' licenses? This doesn't make any sense to me. How did Texas end up giving them names that were not their legal names on the licenses? Is this a Texas thing? (I am ethnically Korean, but I have never been issued identification with anything other than my legal name on it.)

Maybe Ko is saying that Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are more likely to have registered to vote with a name that was not their legal name, and thus they might be disenfranchised by being required to show identification?

Oh yeah, and Betty Brown is at best ineloquent.

Sangermaine: My fiancee is Korean; her name is Hee Jin. It's pronounced exactly as it reads.

But there are so many romanization systems out there. How do I know which one she or her parents used? It's hard to do without seeing the Hangul, which most Americans can't read. My last name uses a non-standard romanization, created by my dad who thought the existing romanization schemes at the time fell short. How do I know her name even uses a standard romanization scheme?

(I am going to guess her name is 히 진 or maybe 휘 진 ?)

Faint of Butt: I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why.

It could be that the names in question also work out in Korean. That's why two-syllable names like Eugene are pretty popular.
posted by bugmuncher at 9:54 PM on April 9, 2009


But there are so many romanization systems out there. How do I know which one she or her parents used? It's hard to do without seeing the Hangul, which most Americans can't read. My last name uses a non-standard romanization, created by my dad who thought the existing romanization schemes at the time fell short. How do I know her name even uses a standard romanization scheme?

This is a massive, ongoing issue, not helped by the new government-decreed romanization standard in 2001, I think it was. My wife has 3 different romanizations of her given name on three different government-issued IDs, including her passport. If there were problems overseas in some, er, non-cosmopolitan location, I could see difficult issues arising in trying to convince the authorities that the three 'different' names were just different romanizations of the same name.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:22 PM on April 9, 2009


I kept my Chinese name when I immigrated at the age of 7. It always gets mispronounced at first, because Pinyin transliteration doesn't match up to
English pronunciation, but people generally get it right after a couple of tries.

For random things that don't matter though, like ordering takeout, I use "Marcus" so I don't have to spell my name out. The sad part is when I sometimes have to spell that.

And oh, it's generally right on all official documents, but sometimes my name does get an extra space or dash or capital letter when people write it out. Annoying but no biggie.
posted by kmz at 10:27 PM on April 9, 2009


Is Ko saying that Chinese, Japanese and Korean Americans are more likely to have names that are not their legal names on their drivers' licenses? This doesn't make any sense to me.

People don't necessarily have a single legal name, rendering others non-legal or somehow lesser. I have more than one legal name owing to a partial adoption. Some parts of the federal government think I have two middle names, others one, depending on whether they treat the adoptive name as removing my original surname or just shoving it backwards into middle-name status.

In this case, it wouldn't defy belief to think that USCIS might have their name recorded as a straight transliteration of a Mandarin or Cantonese name, and that this name appears on their certificate of naturalization and passport.

But that doesn't mean that Texas has that name recorded for them, since Texas may have issued a driver's license on the basis of an original foreign passport, and they might have offered a different transliteration or translation of their name at that point, or might have followed some different rule for transliterating.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:33 PM on April 9, 2009


ムクギッリカヂー。Figure it out. AND DON'T MISPRONOUNCE IT!
posted by McGuillicuddy at 7:50 PM on April 9 [+] [!]


It's Mak-GILL-uh-KUD-ee.
posted by Clay201 at 10:36 PM on April 9, 2009


I've encountered lots of Asian folks, Koreans in particular, who adopt Western names for... well, I've never really figured out why.

Because we mangle the pronunciation. I know one fellow who came to my school as an international student who took the name "Albert." I figured it would be polite to ask his "real" name and Albert told me.

"Chin-Hwa."

Simple, right?

Whoops it isn't, because Western pronunciation totally fucks it up, like if Chin-Hwa pronounced my name, Chris, with a "ch" like in "Church" rather than with a silent H. And did it every time. Even after practice. Because believe me, I fear no attempt to pronounce things properly, but the nuances of pronouncing Korean properly are, it turns out, a real bitch. I tried five times to get it right and finally he just said, not at all offended, "you can just call me Albert. It's fine."

And the Koreans, bless them, know that Korean pronunciation is hard for everyone who isn't Korean, so that's why they adopt first names.
posted by mightygodking at 10:53 PM on April 9, 2009


I've known people from asia who have taken western names during their stay -
played badminton with a fellow named Harvey and his friend Wilbur
and was in grad school with a girl who adopted Sylvia...

I get why they may have felt the need to do it,
but a wide diversity of names is really common now - especially up here in Canada
and I think it would be fine to keep the original
and put up with bastardized pronunciations
(as many people from all over have to do)
I had some Thai friends, and all of them had a short - and phonetic -
nickname which worked really well across cultures:
who doesn't want a friend named Toom - meant to sound like the hit of a drum but often coming out as "tomb"


in regards to this Betty Brown, some more from her website:

"BROWN CONTINUES FIGHTING TO ELIMINATE BENEFITS FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS
Representative Betty Brown joined a nationwide organization of legislators who oppose any legislation supporting the status of illegal aliens in the United States."

"BROWN SUPPORTS RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN TEXAS
Calling it a great victory for religious freedom in Texas, Representative Brown noted three significant bills concerning religious expression passed in recent legislative session:
* House Bill 1034 added the words "under God" to the Texas pledge. The new pledge reads, "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one state under God, one and indivisible. (Brown co-authored)
* House Bill 1287 put the Bible back into the classroom. It strengthened traditional values in Texas by allowing an elective course on the Bible to be offered in Texas schools. (Brown co-authored)
* House Bill 3678 permits students to voluntarily express religious viewpoints in public schools, and to add to a discussion on art, literature, science, or other subjects in which the free expression of religious views has previously been excluded. (Brown co-authored)"

"BORDER AND HOMELAND SECURITY
Senate Bill 11 allocates $100 million for border security and sets up a border security council to ensure financial accountability. The money will primarily be used for suppression of drug trafficking and criminal activity."

casting teaching the bible in school as "religious freedom" and aggressively going after illegal immigrants - including actively stripping them of any benefits - indicates the mindset which might see having the different people change their different names to something more normal as a reasonable solution to the problem.

on the other hand, she is for "CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE" and stuff -

which is good

i think
posted by sloe at 11:40 PM on April 9, 2009


I work with a lot of people from India. They have long names, but they're perfectly pronounceable if you're willing to actually read the name

The trick is to, first, not feel frightened by the big chunk of letters there, and then to think in syllables, or in Indic-script-like breaks. Chattopadhyay, for example, is a mere five characters in Indic scripts; it's cha. tto. paa. dhya. ya. Each syllable is a seperate letter.
posted by the cydonian at 11:49 PM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


bugmuncher

Sorry, I can see how my comment was unclear. I was trying to explain that she writes her name as Hee Jin (or Heejin, sometimes). Any English speaker should be able to look at those letters and understand (rhymes with bee-pin). (It's 히 진, BTW). When she says her name it sounds like that. So it's odd to me that, with such an obvious reading, people can still mess it up. Like I said, I think it's a mix of them just being put off by the "otherness" and them trying to be polite resulting in unnecessary over-caution.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:07 AM on April 10, 2009


so, it's chattopaadhyaya instead of chattophadhyay?

that makes everything easier.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:08 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


tzikeh: "Reminds me of Alien Nation, where the Americans gave the Tenctonese names that were "hilarious" to Americans...

....

Maybe we should suggest some names for the Asians, like John Smallberries, John Yaya, and John Bigboote.

Also - Christ, what an asshole.
"

Erm... TAKEN.
Russian descended jew. From Texas!
posted by John Smallberries at 12:15 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh come on, Chinese isn't all that hard.
posted by Poagao at 12:53 AM on April 10, 2009


The trick is to, first, not feel frightened by the big chunk of letters there, and then to think in syllables, or in Indic-script-like breaks.

I honestly think this is why a lot of people refuse to try - they're freaked out by the mile-long name. I just fervently disagree with their freakout. Mile-long names are awesome! Wouldn't we all rather have names that minutely describe our sociocultural background in great detail? I could be winnarelatedtothemcwinnersons worshipperofthegreatgodgorgonzolatechsupportperson.

And I think that would be better for everyone.
posted by winna at 1:56 AM on April 10, 2009


A friend of mine with a very Irish name is living in Japan at the moment. When he realised how much trouble his name gave his co-workers he took an easier English name: Chad Sixpack.
posted by minifigs at 3:08 AM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


ムクギッリカヂー。Figure it out. AND DON'T MISPRONOUNCE IT!

Can't be done, sorry. You've put a ッ in front of a リ, and that's unpronounceable. Perhaps you meant マックギリカディ?
posted by Faint of Butt at 3:57 AM on April 10, 2009


Actually, I take that back. It's pronounceable, but it looks and sounds really weird, putting a glottal stop in the middle of the name. To clarify and be less of a smartass, the katakana you typed would best be transliterated as "mukugi'rikadzii," whereas mine would be "makkugirikadi." I really shouldn't be trying to show off this early in the morning.
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:26 AM on April 10, 2009


Before everyone piles on (well, too late for that...), they should know that the Mainland Chinese variant of Mandarin has no means of incorporating foreign names phonetically and so everything must be translated back into characters to the detriment of accuracy. Obama is "Ao-ba-ma" and Hillary Clinton is "Xi-la-li Ke-lin-dun (She-la-lee Ka-leen-dun/doon). England is the brave country (Ying-guo), and Japan is the same characters of approximately "rising sun" but sounds completely different (Ri-ben, pronounced more like rr-ben). I've heard Taiwain has a few dozen extra characters explicitly for pronouncing foreign sounds, but in the meantime I can either go with a Chinese name here or have everyone call me "Tway" (sounds like hammer) or "Twee" (many think i'm called "tree") instead of Trey.

At least American English tries to pronounce foreign names as close as possible, even if we fail miserably.
posted by trinarian at 4:53 AM on April 10, 2009


And that, as they say, is what a shithole Texas is all about.

On not-preview (I've only read 1/8th of the thread) but where are you from? I'd like to insult everyone within a 1000-mile-shithole radius of your local village idiot.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:31 AM on April 10, 2009


trinarian - Isn't that more because of the flexibility of the English alphabet?
posted by dolca at 5:42 AM on April 10, 2009


This whole katakana thing is getting silly. McGuillicuddy (McGillicuddy?) is pronounced "Ma-GILL-uh-kud-ee," or "ma-giraa-kaddi:" マギラカッディ

Why you guys were going on with "makku" when it's not even a "Mac" name is beyond me.
posted by explosion at 5:56 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I was teaching college in Taiwan I had a Chinese name that was "official" for most purposes (Tai Shih-te/Dai Shide, if you're curious), because official documents require a seal ("chop") with Chinese characters, and to put my full English name in Chinese characters would have required a chop the size of my forearm (and the name wouldn't have fit in the allotted spaces anyway). There are all sorts of good reasons for people to adopt names that fit the surroundings they find themselves in, as others have pointed out. And Rep. Betty Brown is not concerned about some general principle, she's concerned about those inscrutable Asians, otherwise she would have talked about the principle, not the Asians.

Evidently not. It's Pawełkiewicz.

Oh, you know the person in question? If not, you're just being a dick. Cut it out. There's enough dickishness in this thread already (plexi, I'm looking at you).
posted by languagehat at 6:02 AM on April 10, 2009


It's more like 'Shar-SHEEshar charsharshar shar SHIEAR' to my ear.

That's Mandarin - I guess the one they're actually mocking is Cantonese, not that they'd know the difference.
posted by dolca


With the R in there, it's more like specifically Beijing Mandarin (with the very characteristic 儿化音 (erhuayin), which is more or less a tendency to abbreviate certain types of words and tack an R onto it).
posted by flippant at 6:51 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm glad this is settled. Maybe now they can focus on the pee-pee in the Coke problem.
posted by dr_dank at 7:08 AM on April 10, 2009


Also, the Ajax issue.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:09 AM on April 10, 2009


I'm glad this is settled. Maybe now they can focus on the pee-pee in the Coke problem.
posted by dr_dank at 10:08 AM on April 10 [+] [!]


See, look, again, hoping someone can explain this. How does this turn into "WHO'S GOT SOME GOOD ASIAN JOKES, I'LL GO FIRST"? What is going through your mind?
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:10 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


the Mainland Chinese variant of Mandarin has no means of incorporating foreign names phonetically and so everything must be translated back into characters to the detriment of accuracy. [...]

At least American English tries to pronounce foreign names as close as possible, even if we fail miserably.


Trinarian, when non-Chinese names are translated back into characters, they *are* being incorporated phonetically. That's how "Obama" becomes "oh-ba-ma" in Mandarin--it's all based on the sound of the name. (It's actually one of the easier names to transliterate!) And the Chinese *are* trying to pronounce these foreign names as closely as possible: though English-speakers say "hih-luh-ree clin-tun," some of those sounds don't exist in Mandarin, so they work with the sounds they DO have. Ditto Cantonese and the other dialects.
(I think you meant Chinese, unlike, say, Japanese, has no special system to incorporate a name PURELY phonetically? Anyway...)

It's also worth pointing out that meaning IS generally taken into account where possible. A sound like "ma" can represent a number of different words depending on which character it refers to--just as in English, the sound ROHZ might mean "a type of flower" or "moved higher" or "series of lines" or "paddles a boat," etc. In English, if we're given the sound "ROHZ" and are told it's a name, we'd probably choose to spell it "Rose" rather than "Rows"--because "Rose" looks more like a name to us, and it has a nicer meaning. Better example: if we're given the sound "KEHR-ET" as a name, we might go with "Carat" (like gold) rather than "Caret" (like proofreading) or "Carrot" (like, uh,the vegetable). None of those really sound like regular ol' English names, but of the words that sound right, we pick the one with the nicest meaning. A similar thing happens in Chinese. When the Chinese transliterate foreign names, they usually try to pick positive words, like "strong" or "brave" or "beautiful." And this sometimes leads to transliterations that sound less accurate, but are often more... complimentary.

Sounds like you have a some grasp of the language--and I see you're in Shenzhen--but I wanted to clarify for those who don't.
posted by Ms. Informed at 7:34 AM on April 10, 2009 [4 favorites]


Even easier, each country should only have one name. I know in Australia they use Bruce. See University of Australia on YouTube.
posted by asusu at 7:46 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Comrade_robot:See, look, again, hoping someone can explain this. How does this turn into "WHO'S GOT SOME GOOD ASIAN JOKES, I'LL GO FIRST"? What is going through your mind?

Since when is snarking at the mentality behind this nonsense the same as theadshitting with a "LOL AZNS, AMITE?" ?
posted by dr_dank at 7:47 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


See University of Australia on YouTube.

That's the University of Woolloomooloo, you tit.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:52 AM on April 10, 2009


I'm glad this is settled. Maybe now they can focus on the pee-pee in the Coke problem.
posted by dr_dank at 10:08 AM on April 10 [+] [!]


This is 'snarking at the mentality behind this nonsense'?

Really?
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:56 AM on April 10, 2009


Seems like it.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:08 AM on April 10, 2009


Yeah, well, it looks like someone telling Asian jokes to me.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:12 AM on April 10, 2009


Nuances, man, nuances.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:20 AM on April 10, 2009


Kindly explain the nuances.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:23 AM on April 10, 2009


> See University of Australia on YouTube.

That's the University of Woolloomooloo, you tit.


I'm American, so I changed it to something easier for me to deal with.
posted by asusu at 8:24 AM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Irony's tough.

"I honestly think this is why a lot of people refuse to try - they're freaked out by the mile-long name. I just fervently disagree with their freakout. Mile-long names are awesome!"

In second grade, we were arranged by birthday, and to the minute I share a birthday with a guy named Win Chivapravadunrong, whose family is from Thailand (and I hope I'm spelling it correctly after all these years). We used to have contests to see who could say it the fastest.

Also, the most vicious riffing on Asians taking Western names that I've heard has come from second-generation Americans who were just brutal to the FOBs in my high school. Maybe it was all the stuff they wanted to say to their parents but couldn't.
posted by klangklangston at 8:32 AM on April 10, 2009


Interesting argument suedehead. Except you're missing the part where many, many Indian Americans (whom you included in your generalisation) seem to have no problem giving their kids Indian names without any thought to pronunciation or propensity to be a joke, and then sending them out into the world to suck it up.

So I'm still not sure I understand why Korean/Chinese Americans adopt American names.
posted by bluefly at 8:33 AM on April 10, 2009


Oh my God...it's one of those..U RAFF U RACIST threads.
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 8:35 AM on April 10, 2009


Only Asians laugh at 404s.
posted by klangklangston at 8:39 AM on April 10, 2009


I remember a guy in my speech class at college who began his speech by writing his name on the six-foot-wide blackboard. He ran out of space, turned and looked at us, and said, "I'm Sam."
posted by desjardins at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2009


PPPRREEEVIIIEEEWWW
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 8:45 AM on April 10, 2009


It is pathetic how far some people will go to engage in bigotry. I mean, names? Good grief.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:02 AM on April 10, 2009


YouTube video of the conversation between Brown and Ko.
posted by Orb at 9:22 AM on April 10, 2009


Interesting argument suedehead. Except you're missing the part where many, many Indian Americans (whom you included in your generalisation) seem to have no problem giving their kids Indian names without any thought to pronunciation or propensity to be a joke, and then sending them out into the world to suck it up.

Ah whoops, should have clarified -- I'm talking about East-Asian-Americans in specific.
posted by suedehead at 10:07 AM on April 10, 2009


My name is DeAnne. Pronounced like it looks: Dee Ann. I cannot tell you the sheer amount of time that people get it wrong. I get Dean, like James Dean, I get Deenie, I get Diane, I get Dianna, I get Deeanna, but 9 times out of 10, people get it wrong. My mother even put a damn capital letter right smack in the middle, and people still get it wrong. It is crazy making. My father wanted to name me Spooky...and sometimes, I wish my mother had let him. Because damn, at least nobody would have mispronounced it.

That said; y'all lay off Texas. If you aren't from around here, you have no basis upon which to spew your bigoted bullshit. And if you've ever lived here, really lived here, you realize that the vast majority of assholes, demagogues and troublemakers were imports from outside of the state. (For example, those Connecticut Yankee Bush bastards that pretended to be cowboys.) Just cause your cat has kittens in the oven, don't make them kittens biscuits; just cause someone claims to be a Texan, that don't make it true.

Texas is filled with wonderful, warm, considerate people, and I resent the hell out of y'all pretending that we're some vast cultural wasteland filled with bigots, racists and ignoramuses. Yes, we've got our share of stupid, but so does everywhere else.
posted by dejah420 at 12:51 PM on April 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


Just cause your cat has kittens in the oven, don't make them kittens biscuits

Are you sure? Because I swear, they just taste so yummy with jam.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:06 PM on April 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but something is wrong with a state whose citizens put CATS in the OVEN.

You know who else.... ?
posted by desjardins at 1:34 PM on April 10, 2009


NO. No way was he a cat person.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:14 PM on April 10, 2009


Here's the video of the original exchange.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:57 PM on April 10, 2009


I just wanted to say that I used to work with a woman named Cheyenne Sue, alternately spelled Xiaoyan Su, and that was the coolest name ever. That's all.
posted by darksasami at 3:32 PM on April 10, 2009 [3 favorites]


Whoops it isn't, because Western pronunciation totally fucks it up, like if Chin-Hwa pronounced my name, Chris, with a "ch" like in "Church" rather than with a silent H

I studied Korean for a year and still can't pronounce it correctly. The sound system is very different than in English. But a normal English pronunciation of "Chin-Hwa" wouldn't be any worse than a normal Japanese attempt at "Albert."

It's just an accent. Although I guess even that can get wearing after a while.

(If you're wondering why I picked Japanese, it's because it has a more restrictive syllable structure and doesn't have a syllable-final -l sound, like Korean does.)
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:05 PM on April 10, 2009



"Interesting argument suedehead. Except you're missing the part where many, many Indian Americans (whom you included in your generalisation) seem to have no problem giving their kids Indian names without any thought to pronunciation or propensity to be a joke, and then sending them out into the world to suck it up."

Maybe because there are almost a billion Indians.! and they run all the call-centers.

does Betty Brown realize that the number of English speakers in China is greater than the population of the USA.?
posted by lemuel at 8:14 PM on April 10, 2009


TELEVISION TO THE RESCUE.
posted by boo_radley at 9:37 PM on April 10, 2009


from now on I will be addressed as Hai Bao

Are you this guy?
posted by naoko at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2009


Mile-long names are awesome! Wouldn't we all rather have names that minutely describe our sociocultural background in great detail? I could be winnarelatedtothemcwinnersons worshipperofthegreatgodgorgonzolatechsupportperson.

:-) In fact, my Vedic name does just that; you have my (what in the West is called as) first name, the village from which my family originally came from (that doubles as a surname), the sage to whom the family turns to, and the caste-honorific. In comparison, my official name merely has a first-name, surname combination, and even that is vastly simplified for reasons I'll elaborate below.

Except you're missing the part where many, many Indian Americans (whom you included in your generalisation) seem to have no problem giving their kids Indian names without any thought to pronunciation or propensity to be a joke, and then sending them out into the world to suck it up.

So I'm still not sure I understand why Korean/Chinese Americans adopt American names.


Well, a couple of things: first, Indian names _have_ gotten simpler over generations, even in India. My dad's official name has three names in it, including the caste honorific, parts of both of his granddad's names and the village-name. My name, in comparison, while Sanskrit and "Indian"-sounding, is actually extremely non-religious and chosen for its relative simplicity: it's a mere three letters in Indic scripts, compared to nine glyphs in my dad's name. [It's a different matter that most people here in South East Asia have problems pronouncing the conjunct-consonant in the middle, but anyway. :-) ]

So it would be extremely wrong to say that Indian-Americans don't give any thought to pronunciation; they do, Indian names have gotten vastly simpler lately.

Second, for auspicious reasons, many Indian families choose to have a very very complex set of rules in naming their kids; my friend and his wife just had a baby a few weeks back, and because the hour in which the baby was born was inauspicious, their pujari told them that the name had to start with a certain (Devnaagri) letter.

Third, ex-pat Indian communities elsewhere (hey, we've been migrating out of the lodeship for three hundred years now) in the world do have a dual-name thing going on; in Burma, for example, the practice is to have a Burmese name and an Indian name for the newly-born. With a lot of inter-marriage between Burmese and Indians, many Burmese-Indians don't immediately look Indian; they might have Burmese names on their Myanmar passports and consequently, even I/C's in their host countries, but when they see that you're Indian, they will greet you in Hindi and ask that you call them by their Indian names when you're speaking to them in Hindi.

Fourth, many Indian-Americans do an informal name-contraction like Americans do; much in the same way that, say, an Edward Banks would become an 'Ed', a Vignesh would become a 'Vig' and so on. So regardless of the whole chunk of complexity that I just described, most Americans would know their Indian colleagues or friends by a mono-syllable contraction that's easy to pronounce and wholly bite-sized American; even if it's for a different gender, 'Vig' isn't that different from 'Vic', and it becomes easy to fit in.

Now you have to understand: it's impossible to do that in traditional Chinese names. In a traditional Chinese name (Hokkien perhaps?), you generally have a surname first, a sort of a generational prefix next, and then a suffix; so if you're called Phua Chu Kang, "Phua" is your surname, "Chu Kang" your personal name, with "Chu" being a prefix that you share with your younger brother, Phua Chu Beng. You, therefore, really can't shorten "Chu Kang" to "Chu" or to "Kang" without it being uniquely yours.

(Note that the transliterations I used are more common in South East Asia than in mainland China; I understand Mandarin-to-pinyin transliterations might be different, in that the personal name is usually one big chunk, as opposed to two seperate words)

Now, a lot of overseas Chinese (mostly Malaysian-Chinese in my experience, but that's just anecdotal) out here do tend to contract their names to their initials. So you could be introduced to Mr Phua earlier, and he could reply: "Hi, this is Chu Kang. You may call me CK". Helps quite a bit for cross-cultural speakers, without "needing" an alternate English name.

Now why did the Chinese (and much recently, Koreans, Vietnamese, Burmese etc) begin having an English name in tandem with their normal Chinese name is an interesting question to which I don't really know the complete answer. I'll say this though: it's not an American-only thing; a lot of Chinese folk in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of the world tend to have this tradition. The common thread between these countries being British colonialism, perhaps the British's colonial-era border control is to be partly blamed? I really don't know; all I know for sure is that it'll be wrong to explain it in American terms alone.
posted by the cydonian at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


If you aren't from around here, you have no basis upon which to spew your bigoted bullshit.

Sorry, but as they say, you don't invite the elephant to be a professor in the zoology department.
posted by chinston at 11:28 AM on April 11, 2009


I think a lot of the problem with English people mispronouncing latinized names is that a lot of the time, the latinization system is more concerned with translating paperwork than accurate phonetic approximation.

A lot of recent Chinese expats, for example, seem to spell their names with pinyin, which is significantly less than ideal for conveying even remotely correct pronunciation to Anglophones unfamiliar with the quirks of that particular system. I can't really see those Q's and X's being much help to anyone.

I don't know how that works, though. Who assigns the spelling? Is it the individual, or a government clerk, or is it all automated, or what?

Also, since we're sharing: My British first name is quite common and has only one spelling; my British last name isn't name-common so much as dictionary-common--you probably use it, hear it, and read it dozens of times a day. Both are monosyllabic, and together they total eight letters. Both are butchered daily.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:12 PM on April 11, 2009


State Rep. Betty Brown apologizes for comments on Asian voters' names
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:57 PM on April 11, 2009


from now on I will be addressed as Hai Bao

Are you this guy?
posted by naoko at 11:15 AM on April 11 [+] [!]
HOW DID THEY GET THOSE PICTURES OF ME
posted by jtron at 5:15 PM on April 11, 2009


So, my name:

First: old-fashioned but not unheard of Western multisyllabic. I rarely use it except in official contexts, because I think it's kind of formal. Also, Americans pronounce it weird (sorry).

Middle: Two-syllable Vietnamese name. Nobody can pronounce the full form except my mother that side of the family, but I do go by the truncated form, which is Mai.

"Mai," pronounced like the personal pronoun. Not that hard, right? And yet, in the past twenty-odd years, I've gotten: May, Mia, Maya, Ma, Mi, Moo ... no, I have no clue where Moo comes from. But the fastest way to get on my good side is to get my name right straight away, because it doesn't happen often.

(Incidentally, I love the show Avatar, but it annoyed me unreasonably that the character "Mai" (pronounced Mei) had her name written like mine, thus guaranteeing that no fan of that show will ever say my name right, ever again.)

Surname: two syllables, five letters, two vowels. Slavic. I can forgive not realizing that the "c" is "ch" not "s," given American English's lack of an accenting system, but really, guys, what's with the extra letters? Why make your lives harder?


I don't really understand what it's like to have people not get my name wrong. I think I'm sort of past the irritation point - it's mildly annoying but it's also a fact of life, and if it went away, I'm not sure life would feel real anymore. Are there people out there who can just ... have their names called out, and it's right? All the time? For reals? That can't be the world I live in.
posted by bettafish at 10:37 PM on April 11, 2009


I don't really understand what it's like to have people not get my name wrong.

In one of my recent trips to India, I was speaking on the phone with a customer rep, and had automatically spelt out my name after mentioning it. The customer rep waited patiently, and said, oh don't worry sir, I got your name correctly.

At that point, I had decided I've been out of India for far too long. :-)
posted by the cydonian at 3:24 AM on April 12, 2009


haven't we all ;-)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:57 AM on April 12, 2009


""Mai," pronounced like the personal pronoun. Not that hard, right? And yet, in the past twenty-odd years, I've gotten: May, Mia, Maya, Ma, Mi, Moo ... no, I have no clue where Moo comes from. But the fastest way to get on my good side is to get my name right straight away, because it doesn't happen often."

Um, given my recent work that dealt closely with naming conventions in pornography, part of your problem is that girls with that name do pronounce it inconsistently, including May, My, May-a, May-e, Ma-ay, etc. So, if you'd like a universal assumption on your name's pronunciation, please round up those folks you share it with (birthname or pseudonym) and have a conference with them.
posted by klangklangston at 8:31 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Even easier, each country should only have one name. I know in Australia they use Bruce.

And Canadians are all Doug. Works for me.
posted by mendel at 9:36 AM on April 12, 2009


Or Bob. Or we are the Daves, you know.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:18 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


the problem is, that doesn't make it any easier to remember peoples' names.

which is why we just use "mate" as a fallback, eg "hey, er, mate...haven't seen you since school! what's been going on?"

"mate, been doin' a bit of this, bit of that. say, are you still mates with that mate of yours, mate?"
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:52 PM on April 12, 2009


I also came in to say that my own surname, which is an anglicized German thing, gets butchered by EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING ALIVE. ONE syllable, ONE.

I know how it feels, Asians. I know.
posted by saysthis at 3:09 AM on April 13, 2009


It delights me to no end that CBC has a host named "Jian Ghomeshi." And also that I've nver heard anyone make a deal of it. Were she to live here, it'd give Betty Brown yet another thing to hate.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:17 AM on April 13, 2009


And Canadians are all Doug. Works for me.

Gordie, actually.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:50 PM on April 13, 2009


I don't really understand what it's like to have people not get my name wrong.

Ha -- a friend of mine at college was named Kowalski; we roomed together. He got so tired of spelling Kowalski that he'd use Roberts (i.e. my name) when ordering pizza.

Then we went to Germany on a Junior Year Abroad (not so improbable; it was a small school and so the two guys that went always knew each other). Our first day there, we present ourselves at the financial office for our stipend, introduced ourselves as Kowalski and Roberts, and he started to spell Kowalski.

The clerk stopped him and said, "I know how to spell Kowalski. But how do you spell Roberts?"
posted by Michael Roberts at 11:07 AM on April 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


« Older Malt Madness. Malt Maniacs. Whisky Fun....  |  The Supreme Court of Canada ha... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments