What's in a name
I saw an interesting article in The Boston Globe the other day on the pressures on Chinese workers in international companies in China to adopt a Western name. In some companies, the name change is, in fact, a requirement.
Some are apparently picking Western names based on the suggestion of a feng-shui master. (The one feng-shui name-changer cited in the article is called Wayne. Remind me not to ask that feng-shui maven where to place my furniture.)
One women opted for a Western name because it's easier for Westerners to pronounce, and she wants to be "'polite to foreigners.'"
And some are just saying 'no' and sticking to the name that brung 'em.
Nobody wants to risk losing important Western clients because the name Jianlian stumps them and James is much easier to say - and remember.
Someone might refuse to do business because the name "Jianlian" stumps them?
We all manage to figure out how to say Mao Tse-Tung and Yao Ming, don't we?
Yet we want the Chinese to all turn themselves into Jackie Chan?
It's one thing when someone emigrates to a new world - as in America - for them to Anglicize their name. If they want.
Quite another for a company to be in China and expect Chinese nationals to spend part of their inboarding process thumbing through What to Name the Baby and deciding whether they're an Anthony or a Darren, a Mary or a Melissa.
Interestingly - but no surprise - the higher up the ladder you are, the more likely you are to have hung on to your birth name. Which translates into "a sign of self-confidence, a status symbol more revealing than owning a BMW or a Rolex."
Maybe it's all part of the inevitability of English-everywhere.
It's the language of technology, commerce, medicine, entertainment, the arts - why not the language of naming?
One more blandification....
But, of course, don't we see counterpoints every day, in which Americans "go ethnic" - Siobhan, Kwame, Luca. And Olympic gymnast Nastia Liukin? Didn't people figure out pretty darned fast how to pronounce her name?
So how come we trip, stumble, and fall on Jianlian?