Alien Nation

Or, What's In A Name?

Does anyone other than me remember a not-totally-dire Science Fiction show of this name? Alien Nation featured some aliens crashing to earth and being integrated into US society.   At immigration they were all given English names, but the staff got bored and started giving them names you wouldn't necessarily want for your own child.  There were characters like George Washington and Albert Einstein, for example.

So why am I telling you this?    Well, more or less the same thing has happened in my school.   The kids are all given "English" names, however the Koreans don't really know what English names are necessarily, so they've all been chosen from a list of maybe 40 names thought to be acceptable in the United States.   Say hello to girls named Nancy, Sally and Sara, and boys who'll inevitably be called Bruce, Chad or Dave.    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not protesting against these names in and of themselves, but when you have a total of five Chad's, six Dave's and countless ranks of identical Emmas, things get a little difficult.

Next month though I'll be taking a class that will be new to our school, and won't yet have English names.    Like the bored Alien Nation immigration workers, I'm tempted to have a little fun.    Maybe give them homespun names - say hello Daithi, Diarmuid and Dualta - or else just have a little fun that the Koreans won't necessarily recognise.    Huey, Dewey and Louie are perfetly acceptable names, right?    What about Alvin, Simon and Theodore?    Sadly I might have to draw the line at that, and not call them after the members of U2.

Now, Bono, do you know the answer?   
No... not to worry.   
What about you The Edge?
I guess if the kids have to have English names, I can at least make them something decent. :-)

And pretty much, the kids do have to have English names.    I, for one, wouldn't like it if I had to remember a hundred unfamiliar Korean names straight off the bat.    It's more convenient for the Foreign Teachers here and it's a good way to get the kids used to Eglish names, and there's no real harm in it, so...hey, why not use English names?

The problem comes from the fact that our boss has extended this practice to also include the Korean Teachers here.    There are only about a dozen of them in total, and you probably only work with about half that number, so why give them English names?    In fact, everyone in the school has an English name and that extends to my immediate manager, "Holly" too.    Annoyingly though, it doesn't touch the overall boss.    He is simply Mr. Kim.

Well, I'm not going to call a co-worker by some made-up name when I can just as easily use the names they've been using for the last 30 years or whatever.    So, I've made it my little project to learn the Korean names of all the Korean staff here. (including the nice cleaner lady)    I really dislike the alienation it causes to call them by not-their-names.    Everything here is like that - as Anglicised (or rather, Americanised) as possible.    Like the other day I was doing a lesson teaching kids about the main crops on the North American continent.   (That could save your life some day I guess.)    Another example was a lesson covering wildlife for a class of teenagers:

The California condor is a bird that lived in the high mountains of California.    Condors are the largest flying birds.    They are 1.25 meters long and have a wingspan of 2.75-3.0 meters.    Hunters killed many condors for sport.    Today there are only a few condors are still alive.
You see what's happened there?    They've subtly changed from talking about condors in California, to condors in general, and that makes the last sentence totally inaccurate, when you consider the hundreds of condors winging their way around the Andes, for example.    Maybe I'm being pedantic, but it's just another little example of an overt US-centric view of the world that we're pushing on the kids here.    There's enough coca-colanisation in South Korea already without me adding to it, and whilst I can't change the textbooks, I can still make my little stand by refusing to use the English "names" of my co-teachers.    Anyway, the full names are all only three syllables long, so it's not too hard to get a grasp of them.

Plus it's interesting to see how the Korean characters in the names are derived from the Chinese word glyphs for the same sounds.    The first Korean name I learned is Cha YeongMi.    Cha is the surname, and YeongMi means Beautiful Flower.   

Melmoth:    Oh that's sorta sweet.
YeongMi:          Yes.    Korean names all have special meanings.    I know Western names don't really mean anything.

Not to worry friends, God's Gift here soon set the record straight. ;-)


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