Unusual Names in the Philippines

Naming conventions differ the world over, but for the most part have remained rather traditional in the US.  That’s slowly changing, but for now you’ll still find plenty of people named John, David, Heather, and Lesley.

In the Philippines, names are a lot more creative.  I’ve seen a girl named Cherry Pie, another named Happy, and my brother-in-laws and my wife are all named after Catholic saints.  Seriously.  Most of my brother-in-laws have 3 ‘first’ names.  My wife has 2.

At first I was a little turned off by the idea, because I had a rather conservative upbringing and lived in a repressive American subculture called the US Army.  Now, though, I think it’s interesting how people here break traditional boundaries and express their creativity through naming.

Here’s one sample I saw at the Jollibee in Antipolo, Rizal Province, inside the Shopwise store.

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Western Names in an Eastern Country

One of the things I’ve always found curious about Singapore is that there are lots of ethnically Chinese people that have Western names.  When I first found out about the Western style names I assumed that ethnic Chinese in Singapore had simply started using Western first names in place of Chinese first (or given) names, followed by their surname (ex: John Goh, Michelle Tan, Jimmy Lim, etc).

So, I was a bit confused when I found out that in Singapore, ethnic Chinese have a full Chinese name, but at some point choose an English name to use in addition to their Chinese name.  It sounded a bit silly to me at first, like a bunch of kids at a sleep over picking fake names to role-play with, but I’ve found a few reasons as to why it may be done.

The practice is very common in modern China.  The people there tend to choose an English first name for a variety of reasons.  They might do it because they frequently have to do business with foreigners, and an English name is easier for them to pronounce and remember.  They might do it as a way of expressing social status.  Some do in fact choose an English name that embodies their dream or ambitions for the future.  In China, it is believed that your name will affect your destiny.  This practice has carried over to Hong Kong and Singapore.

I’m just making a guess here but I think the reason that Western names are so popular in Singapore among ethnic Chinese has to do with business reasons.  Singapore is constantly maneuvering and positioning itself as a business hub, and more recently a technology and media hub, for this region of the world.  As such it does quite a bit of communicating with foreign investors and main branches of MNCs that have set up regional offices here.  So, for the sake of simplicity in regards to carrying out that business, I think people here choose English names to use in place of their Chinese names when in the work place.

If someone knows more about it than I do, please enlighten me in the comment section as I’d really love to know!

Also, I think it’s an interesting opportunity to be able to give yourself a name.  In Western countries we’re given the only name we’ll ever have by our parents at birth.  There is a way to legally change your name in the US, but who really does that?  You risk insulting your family if you do.  Sometimes our parents give us names that are really outdated, are in poor taste, or just make you say “WTF?”.  Having the opportunity to choose your own name, based on your own hopes and interests is great!

(Image from Posh Little Baby Names)

McCurry and McBath

Both of these photos were taken in Kuala Lumpur.

I saw this McCurry while riding a bus and had to rush to snap a photo of it.  This place is owned by a local business man and I remember reading about an 8 year legal battle they went through with McDonald’s, who sued them for trademark infringement.  In the end, the Malaysian courts ruled in favor of McCurry, which only makes sense.  I’m sure the name of this store was inspired by McDonald’s but how can you trademark the “Mc”?  Though not common to Malaysia, “Mc” is a common part of names.

I guess this place followed suit and took it a step further by equating the “Mc” with an American Standard.  I didn’t realize there was an American standard for McBaths or McToilets, but if you’re looking for McBathroom Fixtures this is the place for you.