With Chinese New Year now upon us, I recollect that in my teens in Britain I began to take an interest in things Chinese, among them Chinese names.
I was reprimanded by my friend, Som Say Fak, that the name of the new leader of China was not Mousey Tongue but Mao Tse Tung. I replied that many Chinese names seemed funny to me, to which he replied, “Not as funny as some of yours do to us. For instance, what about the short form of Richard, Dick; the Head family should never use it for their sons. Then Norton, a good name, if your daughter Rose wants to be a stripper. Then you have those peculiar names in the north such as Ramsbottom and Longbottom; are they spelt with or without a hyphen?”
However, to return to Chinese names, the South China Post in Hong Kong once published the following list of names, which, coupled with Western nouns as personal names, make droll reading:
Winky, Pinky and Kinky: female office staff at H.K. & China Gas
Chlorophil Yip, law student at H.K. University & daughter of a biologist
Hershey Chiu, female at Sun Life Insurance
Nausea Yip, female secretary
Fish Yu, female clerk
Venus Wong, female travel agent
Tadpole Wong, male, worked for Water Dept. & lived on Blue Pool Rd.
Motor Fan, male electrical engineers
Silicon Cheng: female at H.K. Telephone Co.
Other memorable names, Windy Wong, McDonalds staffer; Cyclops Wong, architect; Kellog Wong, receptionist; Chloroform Wong and a chap named Snake Fang.
I never did find out what the others called my friend Mr. Som.