Quick Take: How I Picked My English Name

Let’s talk about something fun! English names 🙂

I’ve noticed that most Chinese students have English names, like me (Summer), but this is not the case for international students from, say Japan, the Middle East or Africa (or many other non-English-speaking countries). While having dinner with my Chinese friend in Boston and her American friends, one of the American girls asked me, “Why does almost every Chinese student have an English name and where do you get it from?”

Okay, there’s an easy answer for why. “What’s her name?” I asked back, pointing to my Chinese friend. “Cassie,” the girl replied without hesitation. “What’s her Chinese name then?” “Ummmm…” See, that is why.

[Read more funny stories about having a non-English name in America]

There is another reason as well — our Chinese names are picked by our parents, some even before we were born (I don’t know if it is the case in America or other part of the world). I guess we just want to have our names as we like instead of as our parents like.

“Wait, so you guys pick your English names by yourself?” the same girl asked. “Interesting, can you change that?” “Oh sure we can, we change them all the time.”

I thought about one of my old friends who is now studying in Spain, a very quirky girl. We used to spend time picking our English names, and we changed them whenever we felt like it. It was fun! We picked names from our favorite songs, movies, or just on a whim.  She used to use the name “December,” simply because she started a relationship with a boy she liked for a long time in that December. I had the English name “Paris” for about a year (a really a long time for me) because I like the city Paris, and the way my Chinese name (Pu Wei) is pronounced sounds like Paris.

I know you might think, “What? That is NOT similar, at all!”  Maybe it’s not that similar, but that’s not the reason that I changed to Summer.

I found out that the first reaction when I told people my name was usually, “Oh so you like Paris Hilton?” I do not dislike her, but always being associated with someone else was not my piece of cake, and I got tired of explaining. So then I got this name Summer. I was wavering between Zoe and Summer. I liked the name Zoe for a long time—it’s just beautiful how these three letters are put together, and I love the pronunciation. And Summer was all about the season. I finally picked Summer because of the movie 500 Days of Summer. I liked the main character a lot, and she was named Summer in it.

But the funny story was, two months later, I found out that the actress’s real name is Zooey (pronounced Zoe). What a coincidence!

When I told my American friends about the story, they were like, “But you are definitely a Zoe!” But names get associated with people, just like whenever I saw pictures of Jennifer Aniston, the first word that popped into my head was RACHEL.

Do you use an English name?  Why or why not?

One comment

  1. i enjoy your articles.thanks. i am also from china. now work in shenzhen of china, let’s make friends. Looking forword to your email. my cell phone is 86-13430498527, if free , you can call me at anytime.

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