American offers `Best English Names' website for Chinese

Updated: 2015-04-27 05:14

By ZHENG XIN in New York(China Daily USA)

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English names are gaining popularity in China, and American Lindsay Jernigan has put together a website to help Chinese choose one.

Now an English name used by a Chinese person in China often is affiliated with prestige and is a sign of sophistication in some parts of the country, especially in first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Having an English name also is becoming more prevalent for Chinese to make communicating and socializing easier with their Western acquaintances, colleagues and bosses. There are some Chinese who use an English name in an attempt to distinguish themselves if they are working with foreign businessmen.

For $2.50, Jernigan's website,, offers a quiz that uses an algorithm to generate five English names based on the customers' favorite sport, color, music, flower, personal style, birthday and desired professions.

Jernigan, 25, who grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and London, said she was inspired by strange names chosen by some Chinese people she met while working in Shanghai, many of which she said left an odd impression with foreign colleagues and bosses.

Sandra Bailey, who works at a translation company in New York, said her Chinese colleagues' names are easier to remember if they are English because Chinese names are very challenging for most Westerners. "It's also easier to speed up the process of getting acquainted," she said.

However, many Chinese are giving themselves offbeat and unconventional English names. A check of names on Google showed people choosing a personal lucky number of "Seven", a favorite fruit, "Apple", a cartoon character, "Snow White", the birth month of "July" and the Chinese calendar symbol for one's birth year, "Rabbit".

"I heard of names like 'Orange', 'Cash', 'Ice' and 'Devil'," Bailey said. "You name it and some Chinese go by it."

Sometimes Chinese even create a word and name themselves after it, like ``Decemb'' and ``Februar'', mostly driven by a desire to be different, or due to an incomplete knowledge of the English language, which can lead to puzzlement for a person seeing it and embarrassment for the user.

A year ago, Jernigan quit her job in Shanghai and started designing the website. She said she wanted to make it more than a name giver, but a platform of cultural exchange between China and the Western world.

The website's daily page views have reached more than 2,000, she said, with visitors being predominantly young women from Hangzhou, Kunming, Shanghai, Wenzhou, Chengdu and other Chinese cities, who are preparing applications to study abroad.