Silly Chinese Names

Today’s date is 20th June 2005. Nice date, 20062005.
I’m sure there’s something important that’s supposed to happen today. Something to do with ‘XiaXue’ Wendy Cheng Yan Yan. An “interblog marriage” perhaps. Hmm. Dunno. Can’t remember. πŸ˜‰
My name is Kenny. The name on my birth certificate is my Chinese name, Sia Tze Foo, but people always call me Kenny. I had studied in Chinese schools before, but my classmates and teachers still called me Kenny. Which is fine because I reckon Kenny sounds heckuva lot better than Tze Foo.
Since my Chinese name is my official name, Sia Tze Foo appeared on all my official documents – from my passport, to my identity card, my Bachelor’s degree, my driver’s license, my phone bills, my credit card, and so on.

Sometimes I was called Mr Foo

This became a problem when I headed over to Australia. See, when I use Sia Tze Foo in Malaysia people know that my last name is Sia and my first name Tze Foo – ie, surname first, followed by your first name.
But them Aussies don’t do business like that. According to their system, your first name comes first, followed by your surname. So, Sia Tze Foo in Malaysia becomes Tze Foo Sia in Australia. But because of the way we write our Chinese name (we write it as Tze Foo, instead of Tze-Foo or TzeFoo), they automatically assumed that Tze is my first name and Foo is my middle name.
In other words, my name was mutilated into Tze F. Sia… or worse, Tze Sia. And that sucks because they don’t know how to pronounce the word “Tze”. I used to have a gym instructor who gets very excited everytime he sees me and says “Hey, how ya doing today, ZEE!?” Very annoying.
But at least mine is not that bad. I used to know a guy whose surname is ‘Yew’, first name ‘Fook Ping’.
And they called him ‘Fook Yew’. That poor bastard.
Another thing I find irritating is people pronouncing the surname ‘Tan’ as ‘Ten’ instead of ‘Ta-an’ (although technically speaking, ‘Ten’ is correct. I’ve also seen Jeff Ooi’s name incorrectly typed as Jeff OII. Sounds very wrong. It instantaneously transformed him from Malaysia’s Most Influential Blogger to Malaysia’s Most Abused Pasar Malam Boy.
Come to think of it, Chinese surnames can sometimes be a source of laughter in Western countries. The Chinese surname of ‘Huang’ (Yellow) is sometimes written as Bong. But if you introduce yourself as Mr Bong on the dodgy streets of Australia, people are gonna ask if you have any marijuana and the police might send you to jail overnight.
I remember I used to go to high school with someone whose surname is Loo. Then there’s a Miss Kok during my Uni years. That poor girl. Wonder how many times people mistaken her for a transvestite.
But all these pale in comparison to the most unfortunate surname in Chinese history – Ho.
Saw this ad in the paper sometime back. Sounds like who 50 Cents and Nelly would call when they need to renovate their homes. Don’t you think?

Go on. Try telling them they have ‘puffy nipples’.

Here’s a trivia for you. Why is it that ‘XiaXue’ Wendy Cheng doesn’t want to marry F4’s Jerry Yan?

Because she doesn’t want to be known as Mrs Yan Yan Yan.

Be sure to check out The Star newspaper today and see if you can recognise a familiar face in the Star Two insert.

100 Replies to “Silly Chinese Names”

  1. Just stumbled to your site after many recommendations from Singaporean bloggers. Hilarious stuff! πŸ™‚
    I’ve had an overzealous American credit card company add an extra middle name for me because they couldn’t fathom what I was doing without one. So I now have a card that identifies me as Yinjie J Soon. Grurh.

  2. Mind if a silly Caucasian asks a question? Are you saying that Tze Foo IS your first name, and no “middle”? (I guess that would explain why many Chinese names are hyphenated, e.g. Chow Yun-fat.) Please don’t ridicule me; I may be an ignorant gwailo (gwei-lo, whatever), but I’m here to learn. And laugh.

    And now, my own Caucasian tribulations. If “drop” and “dropping” have a short “o”, then why do people insist on pronouncing my German last name, Gropp, as “grope”? It’s a double consonant, people, not an “e”!

    So if they can’t get that right, I guess it’s not surprising that, even after being instructed in the proper pronunciation, they invariably pronounce any variant of Wang (Whang, Huang, Hoang) as Wayyyyng. That kills me.

  3. Hi Kenny, i really like yr site but i dont really agree about yr comments for chinese names for this time…..
    I have to say that its a shame that the caucasian cant pronounce properly our chinese names but we as chinese shouldnt be ashame for that. I am a medical student who is studying in UK and believe it or not even the professors here cant pronounce my name correctly. My first name is zheyi which is 2 words by right but my dad put 2 words together in english letters and the not even any of the ang mo managed to pronounce my name correctly and i am in UK for 2 yrs already! They either pronouce it as Zai-yi or ‘hee’ which dosnt make any sense.
    Well is it our fault to have a complicated name? Should i give myself a English name just because the caucasians will remember and pronouce my name easier? No! Even someone pay me a 10k pounds i wont even do that.
    On the other hand, i sometimes find it quite hard to pronounce the caucasian’s name either. To make things worse for me, in the wards i still cant rememeber the patients names. Hence, to make things easier for me during history taking and presentaion time, should they all change their name to chinese style so that i can remember easier and pronounce easier?
    My point is we must be proud at our names and proud with our culture. Every single words of our name are meaningful and unique. I wont want myself to be call David blah simply just because there are tons of people called David! Finally these are just my thoughts and no offense. πŸ™‚ Hope to hear from you for your views….

  4. Yanyan won’t marry Jerry Yen because he’s mine!
    She always says that I look like him, and I seriously don’t think she will wanna er-hem with someone who looks like her good friend, siiiiiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

  5. Haha I like your last punchline. Them caucasians (cannot call ang m* cos racist) always assume I’m Korean cos my dialect name is Kim S***. Some even gave me nicks like Kimmy or worse, Kim (short for Kimberly). It got to a point where I just gave up and introduced myself as Bill… And yes, they never get the first-names-can-consist-of-2-words concept.

  6. Now Kenny are names and handles important?
    ‘What is your name, each of you?’ My name is nameless. I have no name.
    You give yourselves names, because you believe they are important.
    Understand, your existence is nameless. It is NOT voiceless, but it is nameless. The names you take are structures upon which you hang your images . . . What you are cannot be uttered, and no letter or alphabet can contain it.
    Yet, now you need words and letters, and names and objects. You want magic that will tell you what you are.
    I have had TOO many identities to cling to ONE name.

  7. I like my name eventhough it sounds like swear words when the mat sallehs pronounce it. But still, it’s my name. It’ll stuck with me forever and I will stuck with it forever.

  8. Kenny,
    That pasar malam pix got me real tickled.
    I have a friend surname Kok.Can’t for the world of me understand why he wants to choose Harry for a christian name.

  9. hheeeyyyyy…my surname is Hoe;who said dat its d “most unfortunate surname in Chinese history??”

  10. Am i the only one who notice it or what? Kenny is infactuated with Wendy Cheng!
    So, this marriage thing might just work out, huh.

  11. right in the beginning, kenny already hinted to check the star paper today. yes he is in the news and want you people to know about it.
    well congrats to you kenny! is this your 3rd or 4th time appearing in the paper? you are indeed getting popular! but why do you give the start that picture of you with your grimacing face?
    about caucasians misunderstanding and mispronouncing our chinese name, yes i have that problems before too.
    let’t not talk about the caucasians. among the chinese themselves, esp. at work-place, usually your boss or senior will call you by your surname only. this is not so good for me since my surname is ‘lai’. a few times, i heard my boss called out “lai, lai” i went to him and found out that he was not calling me but calling an office boy to “lai” (come in).

  12. hee, i’ve a friend whose surname is Oh Shufen. so we always go Oh!! shufen… lol..
    hey CURTIS G., u see, we chinese have names made out of 3 characters eg xxx (ok, tt looks like some porn site^^;) for example “Sia Tze Foo” each is a different chinese character. the first character- sia is the family name. first names are made up of 2 characters “tze foo”. always two.
    (minority cases have 2 characters xx. eg guang liang. first character guang is the family name. but u call the person Guang Liang, not just liang since the name has only 2 characters and first names are made up of 2 characters)
    it’s kinda like all chinese having 2syllables names. so if an angmo name eg Smith Peter(note:2syllable first name Pe-Ter) were to be mutilated as in kenny’s, it’ll be Pe Ter Smith. Mr Pe Smith, with Ter as middle name. You see, u can’t take our 2 character chinese name apart =)

  13. haha, when i was stopped by the police in auckland, (NOT DRUNK driving OR SPEEDING) but a random stop. and asked to see my drivers lisense. and all he said was, miss FUI? im like, no, im miss CHIN and he was like. no your not, it sys FUI. iwas like.. WTF? i know my own name you know. and he saw like look, F U I!! good lord. just cos its the last name in line..
    some people.. seriously. but i have been amused to meet whiteys who go, ah yes, miss chin…hahaha..
    i say, try educating them SLOWLY. they get it after a while. or try getting their names wrong. ive done that on purpose. why should i change the way my name is supposed to be arranged or pronounced cos they decided it should be that way. bollocks!

  14. my name is Hui-Xieng (the hyphen is in my birthcert) and yet im registered as “Hui Lau” in my uni.. wth is their problem??? cant they see the hyphen??? it’s meant to be JOINED.. sheesh
    another thing bout the caucasians here, when i say my name is Hui-Xieng, they would wanna shorten it, and they will start calling me “hui”… sheeshh.. my family and friends call me “Xieng” for short.. but me thinks shouting “hui” across a crowded walkway is rather extreme. (and i have to decide whether or not to answer)
    with a name like “xieng” i have tons of people unsure how to pronounce my name.. sigh..but i love it anyway.. i blogged about my name a while ago.. have a read!

  15. Just tell those Aussies that your name is pronounced ‘Sifu’ Sia and you are a kungfu master and be done with it lah! Congratulations on making it to Star! You’re even more famous now!

  16. technically, our names should to be translated into english before the pronounciation in such a way that it’s similiar to the red indians. my name, for example, would be forest brave voice. So they could just call me Forest, or Forbs.. or BV. Don’t know the pingyi for your names but in a way sia tze foo could translate into.. Down Try Pants. oh dear.

  17. Kenneth, yaloh. getting slightly nocturnal here. not good.
    gracie, its true. On the flip side, I have problems trying to pronounce german names as well. I used to have a German neighbour whose name is ‘Jola’. Its meant to be pronounced ‘Yola’, but I got on her nerves by calling her “Joe-La”. πŸ˜›
    queenofsuds, Hui Soh? WHY SO?!? hahahaha! I know I know. Same thing all over Australia really. Sad lah!
    yj, my gawd. They created a new name for you? Blasphemy!
    Curtis, yea you’re right. Officially Tze Foo is my first name and Sia is my last name. ‘Tze Foo’ should always be used that way and not be broken up into ‘Tze’ and ‘Foo’ – which is what’s happening. I don’t have a middle name although some (mostly Christians) choose to have one. Yea, most chinese names are hyphenated or joined together to avoid confusion. Which sucks a little really. But no biggie. ‘Wang’ pronounced as ‘Wank’ is sadder.
    ZY, nolah I’m not ashamed of that and I’m not ashamed of my Chinese name of course. I like ‘Kenny’ because I grew up using it eventhough its not official. When I call overseas I insist on them calling me ‘Kenny’ instead of ‘Sia’ because they pronounce ‘Sia’ as ‘See Ya’ which prompted me to hang up the phone. But yea, I do hyphenate my names, join them, adopt an English names just to make it easier on them. I have no problems ‘mangling’ my real name so that they can pronounce my name correctly. Can’t expect everybody to follow our ways, but its just the little things I find annoying. πŸ™‚
    Shuyin, you kidding rite? Which part of you look like Jerry Yan?
    vandice, eh i already wrote that ‘ang mo’ is not racist liaw. πŸ™‚
    Merv, your kok attended your lecture for you ha
    tess, welcome back.
    Lyon, thanks for the link. I got the print edition here!
    n3o5er, Jeff Oii is! ‘cos I mentioned him!
    nameless, huh?
    CS, WTF would anyone call themselves CHOW CHEE BAI!?!?! HAHAHAHAA
    h.liew, Amber sounds nice. πŸ™‚
    jade, HARRY KOK!!! OMFG!!!! I can die laughing now!
    babysalad, its ok. There’s nothing wrong being a ‘Hoe’! We’re a liberal society nowadays. Its a grey area. heh.
    sakuragi, aiyo say until like that. I just enjoy making fun of pop icons. And Jeff Ooi and Wendy Cheng are pop icons. Now you’re not gonna say I’m infatuated with Jeff Ooi are you?
    lai, just the 2nd time really. Thank Michael Cheang for doing such a good job.
    suanie, HAHAA! Aduhhhh! He didn’t specify what kinda pose he wanted me to do. Else I’d do one similar to the three of you. Smiling and staring at the screen!
    emily, that’s good analogy. Thanks!
    MISS FUI, eh how come u mangle your own name to joandra?! FUI is not bad what. Sounds like you’re scolding ppl. “FUI!” or rather “F YOU, AIGHT?!”
    synical + Missjulia + pamela, hope you like it.
    Xieng, you poor soul. πŸ˜› The trouble comes when you have another sibling with the word ‘Hui’ in their name. Then you have two Huis in the house and there’s confusion. Same thing happening to me.
    Button, Huang = Ooi = Oui = Wee = Bong. Many many things.
    cyber-red, I requested for my URL not to be published, but Michael Cheang said he was forced to do in the end.
    viewtru, I don’t want ppl to bow to me when they see me. πŸ™‚
    kahsoon, eh you want her to kill you is it?
    taste, you want me to kill you is it? πŸ˜‰

  18. Jade’s comment really got me laughing non-stop. The worst thing Mr Kok can do to his son is to give him Harry for a Christian name. Guess what is the worst Christian name Mrs Hoe can give to her daughter.

  19. i DID not mangle my name. its combination bro. makes it my nickname lah. god. i remember my old nicknames. GOD! what was i EVER thinking?? GAWD!! and F U I is NOT F YOU!!!! LOL..

  20. Hahaha… The one on Xiaxue it’s a good one.
    My full name is Jessica Foo Mianzhi. When I was in Japan, I’m often called Jessica-san. But some hotel staff would like to act smart by calling me by my last name. “Zhi”. They would call me, Miss Zhi.
    The best part is, they can’t pronounce it at all and they call me, “Miss Chee”, or worst still, “Chee-san”.
    I felt so Chee Sin all of a sudden.

  21. not so sure ’bout chee bai, but chee fai or wai was quite common amongst those in the 30s now.
    there was this guy i know…his name was leow chiap moh…something like that…it mutated to lan jiao mo (pubic hair) during NS

  22. about jade’s comment on his friend’s name harry kok, there is a joke that goes….
    one day mr & mrs kok had a son. they named him HARRY KOK. then they had a second son and they name him STEVE KOK. their third child came along, and it was a daughter. so what did they call her? ANNIE KOK!

  23. I nearly died laughing while reading ur post in tutorial juz now…
    my classmates are mad about ur blog… and from what i see, totally hooked.
    they are like going, ‘Why he haven blog huh?! i refresh the whole day liao leh! i stayed up to 2am waiting for a new post!’ etc etc…
    maybe i should set up a NP – Kenny Sia fan club for u… Hurhurhur

  24. every one laughs at my surname + name..
    my name is Cake.
    My surname is Loo.
    Cake Loo.
    people call me “toilet” or cake in the loo aka SAI! or they mispronounce cake and say its KEK like the KEK sai the KEK. Irritating la.
    My chinese name is jieling, then people call me WAN JIE LING like the cleaning agent no? sad.
    I like the name Kenny though. Sounds pro, but friendly. =] suits you. Can’t imagine calling you anything but kenny.

  25. every one laughs at my surname + name..
    my name is Cake.
    My surname is Loo.
    Cake Loo.
    people call me “toilet” or cake in the loo aka SAI! or they mispronounce cake and say its KEK like the KEK sai the KEK. Irritating la.
    My chinese name is jieling, then people call me WAN JIE LING like the cleaning agent no? sad.
    I like the name Kenny though. Sounds pro, but friendly. =] suits you. Can’t imagine calling you anything but kenny.

  26. Funny really. I have both chinese name and ‘Christian’ name but the Brits always register only my surname and ‘Christian’ name. Even my bank do not know my full Chinese name. In the end I have dropped all chinese name and just use my (legal)’Christian’ name.

  27. My firstname consist of the word Yoke… as in the chinese character Jade. Aussies always pronounce my name as Yo-Kee.
    On, both YOKE and YOLK have the same pronounciation key!!! I’m sure a lot of girls out there have the same problem! Hate it! Hate it! Hate it!

  28. i love my mom..she give me beautifull chinese name but my name is ugly by my sir name cos hakka…ppl know i am hakka by my sir name….

  29. hey kenny, first time leave a comment here..
    ya, i sort of having this problem in australia as well.. my chinese name is Sin Tze Yeoh, when they call me Sin, makes me feel so guilty as im full of ‘sin’ in me..wahaha.. and my surname sounds like those rap songs.. YO!!YO!!YO!! okie, i think im going to stop making fun of my beautiful name……… leave in peace…

  30. My uni mate who grew up in Perth has ‘Ng’ for her surname. 1st day in school and her aussie teacher called her ‘ner-ger’. She went home to tell her mum that she wanted her surname changed!
    And the ultimate chinese name I’ve heard… Mr Pang Sai King.

  31. Hey Dude, refering to Mr. Kiasi’s comment Tiu is a Vietnamese surname, howabout a Seafood restaurant by Mr. Tiu ?

  32. who doesn’t want to me mrs yan? lots of girls in the world.. phillipines, korea, jap, sg, tw, malaysia, us, china, hk, china, vietnam, thailand etc r dying to be mrs yan. but too bad he has a model gf already.
    so don’t think xiaxue can be mrs yan yan yan. LOL.

  33. the westerners always have a problem with pronouncing my last name… the worst i’ve heard was then they called me “NUG”! aaaaghhh

  34. Refering to e’s comment, I really encountered once. She is a Chinese. Maybe her family is from Vietnam gua. BTW, where’s the restaurant?

  35. This is the first time I’m commenting on your blog. I really enjoy reading it! I burst out laughing when I see how “Yew Fook Ping” name is being called. And when it comes to “Yan Yan Yan”… Gees… You really have that good sense of humour!
    I’m just pretty glad that I have an English name in my birth cert. But the Aussies will never be able to pronouce my surname proper which makes it sounds pretty GROSS.. “Ms Ng!” Sounds constipated? πŸ˜›

  36. emily..
    guang liang’s real name is “wang guang liang”, so his surname is “wang” and not “guang”

  37. lol, i get what you mean about chinese names. πŸ˜› i googled my surname ‘yap’ and majority of the results were related to dogs yapping. :/ bleh

  38. i used to make fun of my secondary sch teacher, Mr Pang.
    “Mr Pang, can i go Pang sai??”
    HAHAHAHAHA anyway, funny post.

  39. Lol malays with “siti” get that alot. They automatically assume that the following name is the middle name. I went through a year with my teacher calling me Siti, despite the gazillion times I tried to drill it into his thick skull that I went by Rahimah. Stupid Fucker (or Fook-er [whichever u prefer ;)])

  40. The “Yan Yan Yan” thing is funny! LOL.
    My surname “Guay” can trace all the way to Canada, and France. -_-” Though I’m 100% Chinese. And of course it’s a joke among people… It revolved to “Kueh”, “Kway”, “Gui”, etc. -_-

  41. i got a fren call tiew nya seng
    “Learn to know the Dark Side of the Force and you’ll achieve a power greater than any Jedi”

  42. i also have a colleague ,with a unique name
    “sak mai kok”but all the girl’s in my office love’s his name.hmmm!!!i wonder why

  43. I got a fren who call ‘Lan Chow’…we neva say hi to him eva, coz it’ll sound like ‘hi Lan Chow’ or ‘Lan Chow hi’…u offend him..wahaha

  44. Oh yeah, just a little add on..
    Anyone whose name is either
    Tan Soon Ang, or Ong Wen Rong are most likely to have the most eye catching name tags in army.
    Tan Soon Ang: S A TAN
    Ong Wen Rong: W R ONG

  45. I stumbled upon our website by accident. The postings were so hilarious. Could’nt stop myself from lol. Keep up the good work!

  46. There is a private doctor i once visited, his name was Tan Ah Kow , which it actually refers to as a dog, WTF!! Why would their parents give them such names???

  47. hey kenny, really love this post about chinese names! Anyway, the Science centre in singapore back in the 1990s used the name Tan Ah Kow as a example in most of their example questions… πŸ˜€

  48. Used to know a guy in lake club KL with Harry as the Christian name and “KOK” as the surname. Gee poor guy, it would be a real turn off for many potential partner. Unless he or she is into some S&M.

  49. LOL that’s hilarious, dude!! my dad’s name is chia guang fatt and you know what they called him in australia(he studied there many years ago)? they called him “fatt chia”!! which sounds a lil bit like “fuck chia”!!! poor dad!!!

  50. I got a secondary school classmate named “Soh Hai” and we went about calling him :Hei, Soh Hai come here!”
    Another is “Paul Chan” – i.e., in Cantonese meaning going bankrupt. “Michael Tan” – selling salted eggs!

  51. It’s not just Chinese, there are a lot of Dutchmen with the name Harry Kok. A friend of mine didn’t believe me at first when I told her my grandfather’s name…

  52. mine’s ng…ive had mat salehs calling me ‘nig’, ‘niga’, ‘ning’, ‘ninga’…then it slowly evolves into ‘nigga’, ‘ninja’. sigh.

  53. I just hate it when people make fun of another person’s name, its just so disrespectful. Also, i think those who are chinese and ar not proud of thier own race are such a big shame.

  54. Damn…i am a HO,and what…???
    i already had enough of those “ho” calling hor…please dont insult my surname again leh wei!!!
    anyway,i am still proud i am a “HO”…

  55. im looking a girl with name ONG WEN RONG
    anybody know about her???? plz help… i really miss her…
    is about 9 years not hear anything from her…

  56. i came a cross an email which goes like this: if ur surname is chong, dun name ur son nelson. or it’ll become nelson chong, meaning worm-infested bird in mandarin (鸟生èℒ«).

  57. hahaha… the fuk yew damn rockz man.. lol.. i was quite down after coming back from my campus and couldnt stop laughing reading ur blog.. u are 1 hell’uva blogger man.. cheerz~

  58. it sad when parents with different dialects named their kids thru direct translations…
    1. HAM KOW, JACK
    Imagine that you are a Cantonese…
    (suck the dog Jack!)
    Combo of Mandarin and Cantonese…
    (fuck smoothly)
    Of course all not blame not on parents but some stupid Hongkies deliberately called themselves
    3. ANNAL LAU
    But why not….
    2. LAM FOK ER
    Just like the classic Malaysian Names
    (bird lays eggs)
    (jogging-der sings)
    (say 6 7 in cantonese…)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *