Non-Chinese politicians in Canada give themselves Chinese language names for campaigning

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It’s a better thing to reach out to non-English speakers than to have a “You’re in America, speak English”-type bigoted-mentality.


When I took Mandarin in college they assigned us all Chinese names, and I remember how some were so much more different from the originals than others. As an American I’m also still amused when the English names of Chinese restuarants are totally different from the Chinese names. I

I wonder what the Chinese-speaking communities think of these attempts. I think if it were me I’d prefer the “inauthentically Chinese, nonsense, but phonetically close” approach, because it’s least it is honest about the person not actually being at all Chinese.

This also reminds me of this article (which feels different now with all the NBA/China/Hong Kong recent events) about NBA players’ creative Chinese nicknames based on complex, multi-layered puns and homophones:


When Chinese people choose (or are pushed to) anglicise their names, they often choose traditional english personal names, combined with family name spellings that have some basis in what makes English-speakers comfortable.

I wouldn’t say that choosing a name that’s familiar to the intended audience is “lying” about whether the person is Chinese or not.

People being given names in Chinese is probably much the same. It’s going to tend toward what’s familiar and comfortable and interesting for the people talking.


From the article one of the examples was George Heyman having a Chinese name that is phonetically “he zho zhi” which looks a lot like, “Hey Georgie!” I’m going to be giggling about that all day.


How was this handled before? Like, what’s Marx in Chinese? Or Jesus Christ?

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If you read this series of characters semantically (as I did when I first discovered them in a newspaper), you are confronted with the nonsensical phrase “hope pull inside eyeliner peace net ethical nanny conquer forest mound.”

Any navigator with some experience browsing chinese stores will probably think this is another Wish product edited by an overeager seller.

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Makesi and Yesu


Canadia, actually.

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Fran Swazzy 2020?

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I had two cousins come from China as teens and one of the first things they did was pick their own english names. I figured it was cool being able to pick your own name, and I figured it’d be the same going the other way.



Character by character, this is “card Seoul horse gram think”.

耶稣基督, which I looked up character by character to mean “Yay Revive Base Supervisor” but is understood universally to mean Jesus Christ.

I don’t speak a word of Chinese obviously, but thanks to teh interwebz I have the ability to look things up character by character.

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Unfortunately, no one use the meaning of their names to create the Chinese name.

[Bridget] Burns’ [(Green, Vancouver East)] name proves that when done properly, a chosen Chinese name provides an almost unfair advantage by tailoring a candidates name to her personality or policies.

Ironically her original name is at odds with the party platform.

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This reminded me of a an item in Games magazine from lots of years ago that had people guess the actual names of cities that had been Chinese-ified. Some examples that I remember: Shiatur = Seattle, Huar Sheng Dun = Washington.

I think it was actually kind of a jerk move to make fun of how people who grew up speaking an Asian language couldn’t properly pronounce English-language sounds.

Over here, politicians have been using chinese language election material to bypass election laws:

“Seattle” is an English mess up of siʔaɫ or Si’hal. If English people already messed it up, they can’t complain if anyone else does it.

People also forget how many famous non-anglophone historical figures have a “fake” english name that would probably sound ridiculous or odd to the person themselves.

  • Chief Seattle
  • John Cabot
  • Sitting Bull
  • Mark Antony
  • Joan of Arc
  • Everyone in the Bible (more or less)
  • Everyone in the works of Homer (and Homer)
  • 100,000 other examples

I just lived in Canada for a few years nearly twenty years ago, but I was given a Chinese name that I can vaguely pronounce in Cantonese and Mandarin of 獾家桢 (Huān Jiāzhēn)


At least these Chinese names have meanings.

It struck me as racist in grad school many Chinese students were encouraged to take “American names” rather then we learn to say their names

Although you have to realize that people from Hong Kong by tradition actually have a Western first name (often having a Chinese name as a middle name).


Is that true for mainland though?

We mostly had people from mainland in our program. Ppl from HK didn’t refer to themselves as Chinese.