14 May, 2010

Names, names and then some !!!

My tryst with a rather long and inconvenient name has kind of left me extra sensitive towards other people who have been unceremoniously tagged with long or weird names too.

Like the saying goes, life does indeed come a full circle.

Ever since I completed my TESOL and started taking up teaching assignments in local schools here in HK, I’ve had the opportunity of travelling to all odds and ends of HK, places which I’d never visited before despite having been in the SAR for more than 15 years now.

Along with this newfound need to travel to places far and wide in HK, the teaching assignments are also proving to be a good opportunity for me to meet many more local kids than I otherwise would have.

It is proving to be an eye opener in more ways than one.


(picture courtesy : dailymail.co.uk online)

HK has always been known to have more than its share of a populace with weird names. This probably stems from the fact (the key word here being “probably”) that in many cases, parents do opt for a particular name for their child simply because they think it sounds good or hep or what have you. The effect, however, could turn out to be absolutely disastrous.

Ever since I started teaching in the local schools, the one thing I’ve habituated myself to is to glance at the attendance sheet - one sweeping look at the attendance sheet before calling out the kids’ names out aloud. Some names in particular stand out. Now the reason why I do glance at the attendance sheet at first, before calling the names out loud is because there are some names which you definitely would not want to call a child by. For that matter, you would not want to call an adult by that name either !!

One other thing I do is engage in small talk with the children in the class. I do this either while I’m scanning the attendance sheet or while getting them to come over and collect their books from the teacher’s table. This proves to be a nice way to break the ice with the kids (if it is a new class) or to just get them chatting or talking to you and warming up before class actually begins. It also serves another purpose. If I come across a weird name, I could quietly ask the child in question how his/her name is actually pronounced. Sometimes, out here, names are not pronounced as they are spelt. Suddenly walking over to the child or calling him/her over would only serve to draw attention to the child – something avoidable at all costs.

There was this one class that I taught – all little kids in Primary One … I think there were about 28-30 children in that class. One look at the attendance sheet and a name that caught my eyes was “HORES”. How in the name of God do you call a child that ? When the little boy came up to the table to collect his book, I did quietly ask him “What does your class teacher call you, sweetheart ?” and with all the wide eyed innocence that little children are bestowed with, he replied “Hores”.  The name is pronounced pretty much the same way as one would pronounce it starting with a “w” !! That day, on the spur of the moment, I started calling out a mix of names and roll numbers. That way, I just called out this little guy’s roll number and since there were some other roll numbers called out too, the kids thought it was a fun way to do the roll call.

There was this one class where I had a Mango, Cherry, Apple and a Pomelo - all in the same class. With my weird logic kicking in, I remember the thought whistling through my head "If I have a Custard as well in this class, I could well make a fruit salad out here !!”

There was this little girl named Horny. I was distinctly horrified at the thought of what lay ahead for that child. Imagine .. say ten years down the line …. she goes up to someone and introduces herself saying “Hi there ! How do you do ? Oh ! By the way, I’m Horny .”

Going by the same rule, there was this child named “Kinki”. Imagine the predicament that left me in !! Normally it takes me about 3 classes to put a face to a name. By the time I walk in for my fourth class or so, I am familiar with all the children. But during those first couple of classes, while I had the option of asking “Are you Mark or Are you Lucy ?”, I could not really picture myself asking any child “Are you Kinki ?”

I’ve come across plenty of Fanny’s (pun SO not intended) in schools here. Apparently, parents who have named their daughters Fanny, did not think there was any other translation to that name in the English language. Turns out it actually has a meaning hidden “behind” it !!!

There have been plenty of such instances. There was once a little boy called “Wince”. I do vividly recollect asking him if the name on the attendance sheet was spelt wrong and he was confident that it was spelt right. It was indeed “Wince” and not “Vince”.

I did once come across a little boy called Benz. That was just one single class I taught at that school so I did not have an opportunity to come across that child again. It certainly got my curiosity going though. Why Benz ? Was it because the parents liked a Mercedes Benz ? Was it because they owned one ? What would’ve happened if the vehicle in question had been a Honda or a Lexus ???

Where am I going with this post ?

Nowhere in particular, actually. It’s just that I do end up feeling a tad sorry for these kids who don’t really know what they are in for, because of the “not so conventional” names that they’ve been bestowed with. While it does not make any statement per se, it could possibly make things slightly more tricky for the bearers of eccentric names.

Don't you think so ??

1 voice(s) said so:

kiran said...

Amazing ... It was funny though to read such names and the way you wrote but the bearers of such names would surely find it uncomfortable once they grow up ...