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Featured Topic: Double Names

Posted January 23rd, 2010 by Peter · 8 Comments

This week’s post is a very thought provoking dissemination of common Asian naming conventions by none other than guest writer Vannie Sung! Hopefully, we as a SAPL community can help shed some light on this topic. Take it away, Vannie!

Vannie says: I’d like to re-iterate the question that Shakespeare’s Juliet asked Romeo: “What’s in a name?”double

Secretly, I like to think that having a second alias makes me sort of an undercover agent, which functions as the “James Bond” link to my identity. As a first-generation Asian-American (born here in the United States to immigrant parents), my genes (hypothetically speaking) make me a hybrid of both cultures. Yet, I’m more known to my family and acquaintances by my American pseudonym. Although my Chinese name holds more meaning (each character translates separately), ironically it means less to me since I identify with “Vannie” more (whereas “Vannie” is just…”Vannie”.) In addition, I’ve tended to notice that most Asian-Americans I know introduce themselves as “common” names (Christine, Jonathan, etc.) while the international students I meet simply flip their names- stating their last, then their first.

Upon their attempt to settle in this country, my parents changed their names so that they sound more “Americanized”; their explanation is that it’s easier to pronounce for foreigners. I know that they’re not the only ones (at least, I hope not), so why do we do this? Is it because when we are mandated to make ourselves known- such as filing tax returns or even simply filling out a raffle form, we’re automatically profiled? (Once again, this relates to my previous entry on racial profiling) Through this act of assimilation, why do we consciously conceal our identities? And besides, once our last names are revealed, the jig is up anyway.

As double agents, it’s typical behavior to avoid being discovered for who we are. But should we have reason to be afraid?

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 kvietgrl // Jan 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    awesome topic vannie! i feel like i identify more with my vietnamese name because it has more meaning

    i have a couple of nicknames at home too and they all show an aspect of my personality

  • 2 Peter // Jan 23, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I often think my Vietnamese name at home, “tí chuột” (little mouse) is very counter-intuitive. It worked when I was little, but as I got older– they started calling me “tí voi,” which means little elephant!

    Haha, I love having double names.

  • 3 kvietgrl // Jan 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    @Peter, haha! they still call me be’ da’o (which means little girl) peach/cherry blossom

  • 4 Anon // Feb 4, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Lets face it. Most Asian people just want to be white, which is why they change their name to an anglicized one. No other culture does that – Latino, Indian, Eastern European (etc.)

  • 5 Jihye // Feb 16, 2010 at 6:07 am

    No, that surely has not to be the case. My Korean name is just so hard to pronounce or read correctly for almost every non-Korean-speaker I met so far, that most often I introduce myself with my western name first.
    Jihye, living in Europe

  • 6 in-business-blog // Feb 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I guess I have never thought of this in the way you describe

  • 7 lu // Feb 21, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    my chinese name is Li Wan Lu.

    my american name is Lulu Wanlu Li.

    so, this hardly applies to me. >_Ov

  • 8 Phicoi // Feb 23, 2010 at 12:50 am

    I was given the chance to change my name when I moved to the states. I decided against it cuz I didn’t want to change myself to please others( I was 11). I kept the name Phi Hung’ ( Phi for phi thuong which means phenomenal and Hung’ means hero). But I kept having to spend 5 minutes correcting each new person I meet about pronouncing my name. Most times the best they could say was Hung( but with a different tone… Which means kiss in Vietnamese ). I didn’t want to be a phenomenal kiss back then cuz it’s girly.( Asian kids believes in cooties longer). Ultimately, I stopped being heroic and drop the Hung’ part of my name when I meet new people. It’s all about assimilation, as long as you’re a well adjusted individual, a name is just a name.

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