Business / Companies

Get in the game with right English name

By Li Xueqing (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-08 07:36

Get in the game with right English name

One woman from Memphis in the US has launched a site to help Chinese clients navigate the pitfalls of Western tradition

Mosquito, Circle, Tomato-Chinese people come up with strange English names at times, names that can baffle foreign employers and even cost them their chance of securing a high-profile job.

An American expatriate in Shanghai saw an opportunity here and decided to launch a consulting business on the best choice of English names.

Lindsay Jernigan from Memphis, Tennessee, asks her clients to answer 10 questions on her website ( to help them nail down a suitable name with minimum fuss.

After paying 15 yuan ($2.5) by Alipay, China's version of PayPal, they get a choice of five recommended names.

Since September, her website has been visited 20,000 times. About 1,800 people have paid to see what answers the quiz yields.

Questions include their favorite color, flower and preferences for a name-for example, short or long, feminine or masculine. Western and Chinese zodiac signs are also taken into account, as are future career plans.

The questions are designed to find a name that matches the client's personality and aspirations, Jernigan said.

About 200 people have forked out more money-120 to 200 yuan ($19 to 32) each-to consult with Jernigan in person or through QQ, a popular online chatting tool in China. Most plan to study or live abroad.

Jernigan started her business one year ago when she realized how an inappropriate name could create an awkward first impression and even cost people a shot at a job.

She told the story of one young man who was not even granted a job interview by one of Jernigan's friends because he put the name Kaka on his resume in homage to the Brazilian football player.

The friend found the name strange and inappropriate. It conveyed the impression that he would not be able to handle himself well with foreigners in a social setting or mixed working environment, Jernigan said.

Yet Kaka seems tame compared to some of the other names she has come across. These range from fairy tale princesses (Cinderella) to random numbers (Seven, Eleven), physical phenomena (Echo), animals and insects (Dragon, Tiger, Fly).

Food is another popular choice in China, with many women wanting to be called Apple or Cherry, she said.

Suhail Nasir, who hails from Pakistan but has lived in Shanghai for 10 years, said he and his friends in Shanghai find some local people's English names "hilarious".

He said he once had to persuade a colleague at Alcatel Lucent to change his name from Coke to Robert.

"This is an idea that many people had before, but no one thought it could be a profitable business," he said. "I'm just surprised that (Jernigan) actually managed to make a business out of it."

English names are common in big international cities like Shanghai because many non-Chinese find it hard to read or pronounce Chinese names, said Zhao Ronghui, a director of the Institute of Linguistics at Shanghai International Studies University.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Hot Topics

Editor's Picks