Chlorophyll, Rimsky and Whale are three English “names” currently being used in Hong Kong.
Linguistics experts say English names, including unusual ones that would not be found in Western English-speaking countries, are becoming more prevalent, though they cannot pinpoint when the trend began.
Other examples of odd English names in Hong Kong include Bambi, Bunny, Dada, Devil, Dodo, Ice, Ignatius, John Baptist, Ludwig, Magnum, Samuelson, Treacle and Violante.
And there’s a twist to this trend. Many Hong Kongers go beyond simply picking and English word to use as a name. Instead, they’ll deliberately alter an English word (by omitting, changing or inserting a letter or two) to create something entirely new to use as a name.
As for the unconventional names, [linguistics professor Stephen Matthews] said they initially arose in part due to an “incomplete knowledge” of the English language. Hong Kongers might have not appreciated the connotation of the name Kinky, for example. Februar might have been a misspelling or the result of someone over-generalizing the use of the names of the months like April, May or June, or both.
Over time, however, people have stopped questioning whether such variations are real names and accepted them. “It started as an inadequate knowledge of English, but if you see an unusual name today, it’s because [Hong Kongers] are taking charge of their own language, not because their language abilities are not good,” Matthews said. “People feel they can do what they want with English. If you tell Decemb or Februar that theirs are not English names, they’ll say, ‘I don’t care, it belongs to me.’ In a way, they’re asserting their Hong Kong identity… [The English language in Hong Kong] is no longer a symbol of British influence, but part of people’s identity.”
Isn’t it fascinating that variant names, at one time accidental, are now intentional? And that Hong Kongers have taken ownership over English to such a degree that they feel comfortable bending the rules like this?
Here’s how Amus Leung, a Hong Kong fashion designer, got her English name:
Leung reminded the teacher who named her of the biblical prophet Amos. The teacher cross-bred the name with amuse, which she thought matched Leung’s personality and sounded more feminine. “I love my name English name,” said Leung. “It is unique and easy to remember. So far I am the only Amus Leung in the world!”
Do you know anyone from Hong Kong with an English name? If so, what’s the name? Do you know the story behind it?
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