I met my parents, Mike and Sally, in a Starbucks the other day. They had morphed into Chinese baristas. Starbucks is a great place to observe this phenomenon since all baristas wear nametags. One girl I met at the Xintiandi outlet had the name “Stan”.
Me: So, Stan, is that really your name or are you borrowing someone else’s name tag?
Stan: That’s my name.
Me: Oh, really? That’s unusual. Why did you give yourself this name?
Stan: Because I feel more like a boy inside.
Me: Well, then, that makes sense.
One woman in my bible study, Agnes*, was given her name by a bunch of foreign tourists in Nanjing when she was a young girl. Her father stopped them to make her practice English and they gave her moniker. I can’t remember, but either the father or the tourists decided she needed the name.
A lot of expats keep lists of their favorite Chinese/English names: Vanilla, Hill, Stone, Cherry, Linus, Angel, Lotus. I have yet to see “Earth”, “Wind” and “Fire” but obviously, names with a natural origin are popular. Given the Chinese’ feng shui focus on earthly elements, this is not surprising. Our favorite so far: Handicap. And then there is the ubiquitous nametag: Trainee, usually found in retail establishments. Nice, but I am desperately seeking the one that says Trained.
Q: if you were a Chinese barista, what would be your name? The Sky’s the limit.
*Not her real name but you get the idea.