What’s in a Name – as Translators doing business cards – it is a question we ask every day!

While I was on the treadmill the other evening, I heard a ripper of a report on the BBC World Service from a reporter in the Philippines who became a mother recently. Sarah Toms, their correspondent in Manila, had a whole lot of stories to share.  Her curiosity was piqued when she went into a local McDonalds store and was served by a girl with the name ‘Bum Bum’ proudly displayed on her uniform.

Why not have an unusual name? At least you will stand out from the crowd.  I’ve lost count of how many Li Qi’s I’ve met in China (that is my Chinese name).  These days the Chinese government encourages parents to give their child 4 names to try and avoid millions of children with the same name  – somehow I don’t think that will solve the problem.  Even my English name – Kate Ritchie – has a few copycats!  One had the audacity to sign up at my gym – possibly using that same treadmill.  Well, she knew her days were numbered and never returned!

As creators of business cards with Chinese names, we’ve seen a few doozies over the years: one that could be misread as ‘pig’, another that could be pronounced as ‘dog’s …’ etc.  Often these names are given by well-meaning colleagues, who, unfortunately, don’t have experience with names or translations. Not only that – a CEO would be less than impressed being thought of as a humble administrator, or a Department’s Acting Secretary as Temporary Typist – you get the picture.

What will we do if faced with a card from Bum Bum one day? Well to translate a name like this into Chinese, we need to follow Chinese naming standards, respect, good meaning, good sound, etc.  We will take the time to find out more about Bum Bum before we set up a name that should stay with her and reflect well on her as she engages in business with China – perhaps.

By Li Qi (Kate Ritchie)


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