When veteran British journalist Peregrine Worsthorne was introduced many decades ago to Dwight Eisenhower, the then US president asked him how to spell his name.
Worsthorne did more than that, telling Eisenhower that the first child born to immigrants from the Mayflower was also christened Peregrine, which (by his reckoning) meant that the first American-born citizen had his name too.
But the president wasn’t notably impressed, Worsthorne recalled in The Spectator magazine last week.
“Well, sonny, that name sure didn’t catch on,” he told the budding reporter.
Over in China there was discussion about unusual nomenclature last week too, particularly relating to some poorly-chosen English names that have been catching on.
This emerged in an article titled “Tips for Chinese choosing an English name”, which was first published by the English-language website “Cctvnews.cn” and widely recirculated by state media.
The article warned of the types of first name that Chinese must be very careful in choosing.
Ranked high on its list: Dragon, Lawyer and Surprise. “Avoid them if you want a call back from that serious law firm in America,” it recommended.
It was also cautious about names that sound like food, saying that sweet things can be “very suggestive”.
Candy, Lolly and Sugar are typically thought of as “non-smart girl names or stripper names,” it added.
But its strongest censure was reserved for names based on fictional or religious figures: “Unique names like this aren’t amusing to English speakers… if you call yourself Satan, you might get a few foreigners thinking you’re anti-Christian.”
Good advice, certainly.
Cctvnews.cn also felt that opting to call yourself Dumbledore – the wizard that runs Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter novels – is a bad idea.
Safer choices include Elizabeth, William and Catherine, the website opined, although other media were soon inspired to look for examples of stranger nomenclature. The state-backed Chinanews website claimed to have found people called Elephant, Anyway, Cylinder, Chlorophyll and Eating, for instance.
Other articles on the same topic were soon being forwarded among internet users. Likewise foreign media pounced on the story, giving it broader coverage internationally. But the Washington Post then dug a bit deeper and reported that the web story was too good to be true. In a correction to its original article, it said that Cctvnews.cn, is in fact a “satirical news site”.
A CCTV insider also confirmed to WiC that the state broadcaster doesn’t operate the site. How this Chinese internet domain got registered is now perhaps the most intriguing unanswered question.
But so far, CCTV has made no official comment on the site or the article.
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