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Choosing an English Name

英文名字 - 取英文名字: 怎麼挑個好的英文名字

You reach out to shake hands, and he asks for your name. You know that your name would be hard for him to pronounce, and so you pause before replying, looking for an English name. Now, what name to choose? Think quickly, now!...

試想一個狀況: 有個老外和你握手, 接著問你叫什麼名字, 你知道你的中文名字對老外來說可能太難發音了, 所以你臨時想找個英文名字, 什麼名字好呢 ? 快想! 快快快...

Does this sound like you? Rather than just pick the first name that comes into your head, wouldn't it be better to do a little research first? Your English name is important in a world dominated by the English language, but not all names are created equal. Some carry unwanted connotations, some are so rare that they look as foreign as your Chinese name would, some draw sniggers and laughs, while others would simply be inappropriate. Perhaps you will be dealing with foreign customers in the future. Perhaps you are going to be traveling overseas to live in the United States or Britain. Or maybe you just need a new handle to play online games with, and the server just won't accept Chinese characters!

以上的情況聽起來是不是很熟悉? 不過與其隨便找個你腦袋裡第一個能想到的名字, 事先做點功課不是更好嗎?在英文已經是世界共同語言的今天, 英文名字很重要, 但並不是所有的名字都是"生而平等"的. 有些名字的含意不好, 有些名字太罕見了,根本就跟你的中文名字一樣, 讓老外覺得像外國話; 有些名字甚至會被人家當作笑話, 或者根本就是不適當. 再說到英文名字的用途, 也許你是希望可以和外國客戶打交道, 也許你將到美英等國外旅遊居留, 又或許你只是要上網玩網路遊戲時, 需要一個英文代號, 因為那個伺服器不接受中文字體. 無論哪種狀況, 挑個英文名字是有必要的.


Selecting a good English name

取英文名字

How do you select a good English name, a name that will stand you in good stead in the English-speaking world? That usually means choosing one that blends in well, and puts you on an equal footing with your new colleagues and friends. It is important to find a name, then, that is acceptable and not too unusual: you want people to remember you for your actions and not simply because of your alarming name. Or maybe you really do want to stand out: but your name should still not generate more laughs than respect!

怎麼挑個好的英文名字, 一個能讓你在說英文的世界裡, 坐得穩, 行得正的英文名字呢? 通常這種名字指的就是可以融入團體當中, 可以讓你和你的同事及朋友平起平坐的名字. 所以重要的是要挑一個可以被人接受, 而且不是太怪的名字, 因為你要的是讓別人記得你的所作所為, 而不是你驚世駭俗的名字. 不過如果你真的就是要與眾不同, 那麼你的名字也不應該招來訕笑, 不受尊重.

Whatever the reason, choosing an English name should not be taken lightly: you have to pick the right one for you. And it's not that easy to choose: a major hurdle faced by non-English speakers is that they don't usually know much about different English names, so let's look at a few of these difficulties.

既然選擇英文名字不容小?, 你就得選個對的. 但是對英語不是母語的人來說, 這並不容易, 其中有個主要的障礙就是, 他們通常不太知道不同的英文名字有什麼差別, 所以我們來看看取英文名字有哪些困難.

One of the main influences is fashion. Put simply, names fall in and out of common use over time. Most names from a thousand years ago have disappeared, and many names from our grandparents' generation, such as Agnes or Algernon, are almost never used today. And of course, today's names will, in their own turn, slowly fall out of use as well, and be replaced by others. While the name you choose is your own business, don't saddle yourself with an old-fashioned name: you are choosing a name for now. Choose a name that is currently fashionable, and you'll have a useful name for a long time.

首先是合不合潮流的問題. 簡單的說, 名字是會隨時間的變化而流行或過時. 大部分一千年前的名字現在都已經沒人用了. 而且很多我們祖父母那輩常用的名字, 像是 Agnes 或是 Algernon, 現在幾乎也沒有人用. 當然, 現在流行的名字, 有一天也會輪到他們慢慢不流行, 然後被其他的名字取代. 雖然說愛取什麼名字是你家的事, 不過可不要取個LKK的名字,你是在為現在找名字, 所以取個當前流行的, 你就可以用比較久.


Choose a name that is currently fashionable

小心取到一個連續殺人犯的名字

Another useful guideline is to avoid names that have other connotations, that carry more baggage than just a simple name. This is a simple rule to say but a difficult one to apply unless you know a lot about Western culture. Many of these names were once popular (and innocuous) but have picked up unwanted connotations over time. Sometimes the connotations can be thin, like those built up from an old joke, or they can be a little more dramatic: not too many people name their children after Adolf Hitler anymore. Research your name carefully, perhaps using an online encyclopedia, and maybe even ask a few Westerners their opinion of it, before you inadvertently name yourself after a well-known serial killer.

還有一個要注意的, 就是要避免挑一些背著包袱,也就是有其他含意的名字. 不過這個規則說來簡單, 做起來卻不然, 除非你對於西方文化頗有了解. 很多這類的名字過去曾經流行一時(而且沒有不好的含意), 但卻隨著時間累積了一些不好的含意. 有時候這些含意無傷大雅, 例如從某個老笑話得來的, 但有些名字的含意卻可能有點重, 比如說現在可沒人把小孩取名為 Adolf Hitler (希特勒)吧! 所以在取名字前要仔細做功課, 像是利用網上的百科全書, 或者甚至請教一些外國人,徵詢他們的意見, 才不會一不小心取到一個連續殺人犯的名字.


English names are not chosen for any auspicious meaning

外國人取英文名字不是因為意思吉祥

In recent years people have created many new names, but traditional names are still the safest bet. Many English names come from things like religious figures, objects, seasons, days, or desired character qualities. Some common English names, like William or Fiona, are very old, with their origins lost in the mists of time. By and large, though, English names are not chosen for any auspicious meaning, but for the way they sound. Try not to choose a name that sounds strange in combination with your family name, or could be mistaken for another word or phrase: somewhere, someday, it will be used that way for sure.

近年來, 人們喜歡自己創造一些新名字, 不過傳統的還是最安全. 很多英文名字來自於宗教人物, 季節, 日子, 或是受人喜愛的性格特質. 有些常見的英文名字像是 William 或是 Fiona 的起源, 則因為年代久遠,已經不可考. 但總的來說, 外國人取英文名字不是因為意思吉祥, 而是聽起來怎麼樣. 所以不要取個和你的姓搭起來很怪的名字, 或是可能被聽成另一個字或片語的名字. 因為, 有一天一定會被這麼用.

Your first name is often called a Christian name, which comes from the long-held practice of giving a new name after Baptism, often soon after birth: names like Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth, Mathew, Peter, Paul, and so on. These names are all very old, and have been an inspiration for parents for almost 2000 years. There are variations of these in English, and in many other European languages, too, so don't be surprised if your French friends pronounce or spell your new name a little differently!

外國人所謂的名字(first name) 常被稱為受洗禮時所取的教名. 這是因為長久以來, 人們在受洗之後會取個新名字的緣故, 而受洗通常是在出生後沒多久. 這些名字像是 Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth, Mathew, Peter, Paul 等等, 都和聖經的人物有關. 這些名字歷史悠久, 而且將近兩千年來都是父母們的靈感來源. 而在英文還有許多歐洲其他的語言裡頭,這些名字也有一些變化, 所以如果你的法國朋友把你的英文名字念得或拼得有點不同, 可不要太驚訝!


Longer English names will often be abbreviated

長的英文名字常會被簡稱

Longer English names will often be abbreviated by friends and colleagues. Even two-syllable names will usually be shortened by others, so Matthew will become 'Matt' to your friends. Don't worry if this happens: it is a sign of acceptance, not a rejection of your chosen name! Often the abbreviation can have unintended consequences: Randall is a perfectly good American name usually shortened to Randy, but in Australia that means "horny". Be careful with this one! Of course, choosing a one-syllable name would stop that in the first place, but the range of names is more limited.

比較長的英文名字通常會被朋友,同事簡稱. 甚至兩個音節的名字也經常被人家縮短, 像是 Matthew 就變成 Matt. 別擔心, 這表示這個名字被接受, 不是被拒絕! 不過有時候這類的簡稱會導致意想不到的結果, 像是在美國, Randall是一個很棒的名字, 常常被簡稱成 Randy, 但是在澳洲, Randy 卻有"好色"的意思. 所以取這個名字要小心! 當然, 選個單音節的名字就不會發生這種情況, 不過這也讓選擇的範圍大為縮小.


Does your English name sound funny to native speakers?

怎麼知道這個名字會不會很好笑呢?

So, having chosen a name, how do you find out if you're at risk of 'funny name syndrome'? Well, the Internet can be a valuable tool to check out the name you have chosen. Google your name first, see how many times it comes up, and then compare the number of pages to those shown in a search for a common name like John or Mary. Your search returns only twelve hits versus twelve million for John? Maybe you need to choose another name! Another possibility is to search for your choice of names in a recent school year book, or similar online source. Then there are lists of the most recent popular names, available online for many countries. If you choose one of the top five names from recent years, it will probably not be a very distinctive name, but it surely will be less likely to be misspelt or mispronounced, and easier for Westerners to remember.

那麼, 一旦你選好了一個英文名字之後, 怎麼知道這個名字會不會很好笑呢? 嗯, 這時候網路就是一個很有用的工具. 你可以在 Google 上面,先搜尋你的名字, 看出現了幾次, 然後再搜尋其他比較常見的名字, 像是 John 或 Mary, 看看這些名字出現幾頁. 如果搜尋的結果, 你的名字只出現12筆, 而 John 則出現一千兩百萬筆, 那麼也許你需要再換個名字囉! 還有一個方法, 就是找一本最近的畢業紀念冊, 或是找個類似的網路資源上網查一查, 你就可以找到一大串最近最流行的名字, 而且網路上還可以找到很多國家的呢. 如果你挑了個近年來最受歡迎前五名的名字,那也許不是挺與眾不同, 不過肯定是比較不會被拼錯或是念錯啦, 而且外國人也比較容易記住.

In the end, your name is your choice. Whatever you choose, common or not (and as long as you can pronounce it and spell it), you will grow into it, and it will become you. But it's definitely better to do a little thinking first, and have one ready before you need it. "Yes, my name is Hopeless, nice to meet you..." needn't be the last thing you get to say when you shake hands.

最後, 你的名字是你自己選的, 不管你的選擇是什麼, 不管普通還是特別(只要你念得出來,拼得出來), 它都要跟著你, 而且會變成你. 事先想好,挑好, 絕對比較好, 才不會到時候冒出這麼一句,"是的, 我的名字叫 Hopeless (沒希望), 很高興認識你..."

Written by Harry Wilson who was once a neuroscientist in Sydney, but who now lives and writes in Taipei. Translated into Chinese by Teresa Tsai who works in Taiwan TV, teaches English and sometimes translates what Harry writes.