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Writing Topic #11
What's in a name?

What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell the same. - Shakespeare

Michael | Maggie | Vance | Ying Lan | Maggie responds | Choi | Moral | Deden | Aline

February 7, 2000

Michael starts us off, as usual ...

My name is Michael and it has a great meaning - "like God"! So I am supposed to be like God! And I'm not! This is because in the Christian Bible story Michael was an angel who was kind of like God's helper in heaven!


February 8, 2000

Maggie writes ...

Visit Maggie's web page

Now I want to talk about my name. Maggie is my English name which.I made up myself. I made it when I started studying English, and now all my classmates in my high school call me by that name. I am afraid that one day they will not remember my Chinese name.

I saw the movie "Runaway Bride". In that movie ,Julia Lopez's name is Maggie. I was so happy at that time. And I found that Maggie in the movie is a little like me. Just a little. But I am not so beautiful. ^.^

And my Chinese name is Ying Jie. I don't know how to explain my Chinese name. There are two words.

"Ying" has many different meanings. But I think in this case it has the meaning of Clever. But unfortunately I am not. And the other word "Jie" also has different meanings. But I think it is "innocent".

Do you think I am innocent? ... To be honest ...

My parents want me to be a clever and innocent person. But when I asked them about this, they said this was just their wish. They really hoped that I could be healthy. Do you believe that, when my mother felt pain and was about to give birth to me she walked around her bed and kept saying: "God, please let me have a healthy baby, no matter whether it is clever or not ...."

I like my English name, because I made it just because I like it. But I like my Chinese name even more than my English name because it was made by my parents.

February 10, 2000

Vance writes:

My name has an interesting story. In the year 1066, King Harold of England was badly distracted by a Viking attack in the northern part of his realm and he had go fight it off. Just as he had defeated his enemies there, he heard that a fleet of warships had been spotted in the English channel and he had to rush down to the south coast with his entire army to try and fight off the attack from France led by William of Normandy.

He almost succeeded in gaining his second victory in as many days and was just fighting off the last effort of the Normans to dislodge him from the hill he was defending when a lucky shot from the Norman lines killed him. His army collapsed at news of the king's death and the Normans won the battle and the country.

In the Norman army there was a knight by the name of Vaux. His name means "valuable" in French. He was rewarded for his services with a large tract of land in Scotland. Now Scottish pronunciation is even difficult for English speakers to understand, and soon they had changed Vaux to something sounding more like Vance.

The Vances still live in Scotland, though the ancestral manor at Barnborough burned down early this century (so much for my inheritance). However, the part of the family I descended from came to America with Captain John Smith (so we are told) or perhaps on the Mayflower (sometimes the grandparents get confused).

My mother was named Marianne Vance though my father was a Stevens. My father's father was a traveling entertainer who organized carnivals and rodeos. He claimed his great grandmother was a Blackfoot indian, though this may have been part of his act. At any rate, I was named for my mother's family and I identify with that part of the family since they have a history, but on the other side there is a possibility that I may be in part a real American. I like to think so, and it must be true, because my kids often act like a couple of wild indians.

This could also explain my nomadic nature.

Now I'd like to hear about how some of you guys got your names.

If we hear from three more students, I'll tell you an interesting story of someone I once met in Brazil. She had an even more interesting family background than mine. But I don't want to do all the talking. Your turn,


February 12, 2000

Ying Lan writes:

Hi, Webheads

My name is Ying Lan. I am a Taiwanese. My parents gave me a beautiful name -- Ying Lan. It means there are a lot of orchids in spring.

I was born in March. Then, it is spring here.

My father likes Chinese orchids very much. I guess there were many orchids in his garden when I was born.

February 12, 2000

MaggiE responds to Ying Lan:

Visit Maggie's web page

Hello,Ying Lan: I am so happy to receive your praises. I found a dictionary to find your name in Chinese. But I don't know what "Ying" means in Chinese. I just know that "Lan" means orchid.

And Michael likes flowers. I don't know if he has any Orchids. I think he likes orchids.

Anyway, you were born in March. That means your birthday is coming. I think maybe I will be living at school at that time. So let me be the first one to say "Happy Birthday" to you.

February 17, 2000

From Choi:

Hi everybody, this is Choi. Actually this is my family name. My first name is Hae-Young. As foreigners find my name difficult to pronounce and remember, I have asked others to call me by family name since I started my after-university life. Hae-Young means good-natured and beautiful.

I gave myself an English name once, when I lived in Malaysia back in high school. It was Monica. You know why? It was the song title of which my favorite singer, Leslie Cheong (HK star). Although school friends called me Hae-Young, which was printed on my passport, my English Institution friends called me Monica. Later, when he found out that I was using an English name, my father was angry like fire.

I regret having asked others to call me by my family name. It is too easy and common. So I am thinking about re-using my English name. This time I will be more considerate in selecting my name. If I can not find a beautiful and good-meaning name, Monica will be my name.

Michael, is Monica an old fashioned name? What do you think?

Michael responds:

Personally I think it's best if people keep the name they are given at birth - even if they find themselves in a new culture where people may have difficulty pronouncing your name at first. I like learning new names from other cultures, and I always find it a bit sad when people decide to take an English name. But I understand why people do it, and I also understand why your father was angry when he found out that you had been using an English name. I think parents will always feel like you are rejecting the family, their beliefs, and their culture if you change your name to something different to the one they gave you.

Even here in Australia some of my friends have changed their name because they want to start a new life, and it is an outward sign of a big change. I always find that difficult too - to call them by a new name when I have known them for years by another name. But I get used to it of course. I don't really mind if people if people change their names. After all, it is their decision, and it must get very tiring when you move to a new country and hear everyone mispronouncing your name every day!

I think Monica is an old name, but a nice one. Many people today are still called Monica. I found out at this website ( that it means 'adviser'. So I guess a Monica is someone who gives advice! Do you like that idea?

- Michael C.

February 29, 2000

From Moral

My name is Daoyi Lan. I used it at first I went online. But after some online friends asked me Daoyi was a male or a female name, I thought I should have an English name to prevent people from thinking I was a lady. And Daoyi means moral in Chinese, so I picked it as my English and online name.

My surname Lan means blue in Chinese which is different from Yinglan's lan. I wonder if there is any surname Blue in English.

Best wishes,


March 2, 2000

From Deden

Dear All members of webheads

My name's Deden Sulaiman. I think my name doesn't have a meaning, but if you go to Indonesia, you will find that my name is a very popular one. Many Indonesian people use it, especially in the Bandung province of Indonesia.

In Indonesia, you can know where someone is from just by knowing only their name. Like Siahaan, maybe he/she is from Medan (north Sumatra). Similarly, Ketut is from Bali...

To be frank, I didn't have a Chinese name until I went to Taiwan. My Chinese name is Luo Ta Hai.

Luo is my family name (I don't know what Luo means). Ta means big and Hai means sea. So my name means big sea.

Near My University there is the sea, a very big sea.

Sometimes I want to laugh when I think of my names.

My father didn't give me a Chinese name because he couldn't read, write or speak in Chinese. He can only write his own name, and also my mother.

My father's best friend give me the Chinese name.

Thank You


March 27, 2000

From Aline

Michael asked about my name (it was the first time he had heard this name).  As Feliz has already mentioned, it is a very common name in Brazil. I researched its origin and I discovered, to my surprise. that it is derived from Allen, an ancient Celtic name derived from Gaelic. Allyn is a spelling variation of the English and Scottish patronymic name Allen, which means: little rock.  At first, I thought that my name was French, and many friends of mine from France and Belgium met me for that reason. So you see that I was wrong! I love my name, and I wouldn’t like to change it.  There's a French song (in my homage) named Aline. It's a very romantic song that means a lot to me.

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Last updated: March 29, 2000