Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fun with names

by Kevin

Sometimes you just wonder what these students are thinking. I've been back in Weinan for about three days now and have already taught three slightly jetlagged classes and managed to have both computers here breakdown.

But one thing that always brightens my day at the beginning of a new semester is seeing and hearing the English names my students have chosen. Usually, I pass around a list on the first day of class and encourage them to take their pick. But since I wasn't here for their first lesson this year, the students had already made their choices. In addition to normal everyday names like Mike and Sam and Victor and Amy and Sally and Lisa, I always wind up with a handful of oddball names.

For example, I asked if my class yesterday had selected a monitor yet. The girl shyly stood up. "Do you have an English name yet?"

"Yes," she said, sheepishly. "Leaves-a."

"Lisa?" I asked, not sure if I heard her right?

"No, Leaves-a," she said. It hit me that she was adding an extra syllable onto the end of her name, as Chinese students often do.

"I've never heard someone use that as a name," I told her.

Usually I encourage them to change them because no native speaker would take you seriously if you introduced yourself as "Leaves." Probably not even if you were wearing tie-dye.

But hers was only one of many strange names that showed up when I asked students to list their English names.

Some, I can't help but wonder if they are misspellings. There's YaLianna, but maybe she just has a hard time saying Lilian or Lianna. There's Buluce (Bruce?), Mria or Mvia (I couldn't quite read her handwriting, but perhaps she meant Mia or Maria? Lijaky (Leejay?), Selar (Stella/Star?), Shasha ("Sasha?) Aileen (Eileen?), Kaia (Kayla/Kay?), Kathyria (Kathryn?), Felice (Felicia?), Sunna (Sunny?).

In one class, I was scanning the list and found a Shannor. I figured that surely she meant Shannon, until I went further down the list and found another girl named Shannon (we try to encourage students to not choose the same name as a classmate).

Others like Still , Lemon, Tiramisu, Fantasy, Lucky, Delta, Cherry and Willow are at least words, even if their usefulness as names is a bit questionable. If only a few had chosen pronouns, prepositions or conjunctions as names, you could make sentences just from their names they choose.

Lenka Hopes that Milo Still likes Tiramisu, Coco and Candy, but Cher's Fantasy is to eat Lemons and Cherries with Bella under the Willows on the Delta in the Summer under the Starrs.

The upside of these names is they're a lot easier to remember than Vivian, Ann, Sarah and Amy (Almost every class tends to have at least one of these). So now the decision, should

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