A Boy Named Tzu

According to the Social Security Administration the top two baby names for 2010 are Jacob and Isabella. My name according to SSA is not in the top 1000 names for any year of birth in the last 11 years; which means simply "there will never be a personalized Knotts Berry Farm mini license plate in your name ever."

The immigrant Chinese parent on the whole name their children according to the popular names of the day, however there are a small segment that love pulling a name out of some obscure novel, or the name of their favorite composer or a name that matched with the last name, creates a whole new something something.

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During my high school years I had the brothers Johann Sebastian and Wolfgang Amadeus Wong in my geography class. There was Dinah Mo in math class, that a simple "hey, do you want to reconsider that" by the birth registrar at the hospital might have changed the course of her life, but no, they probably didn't speak up because they were biting their tongue in an effort not to burst out laughing.

I got my name because my father loved Shakespeare and specifically the play "Hamlet"; luckily he didn't like "Othello" more. I love my name, even in high school when I would get renditions of it that made everyone snicker except me, I would just roll my eyes and count the days to graduation. And since I have a relatively rare name, I got @ophelia on Twitter, another bonus of not being named Madison. I grew up appreciating my name and how I had to live up to its weight. Dad wanted me to stand out with a name that didn't blend in.

Now that the newest Chinese immigrants are naming their children in a more traditional Western way, the mantle has been taken up by Western celebrities to name their children in that offbeat "where did that come from" way. Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter "Apple." Posh and Becks named their daughter "Harper Seven." And Natalie Portman came up with "Aleph" for her son. I predict that the Chinese will soon pick up again on this trend and come up with a version of their own stand-out baby names simply because it's Western. And who doesn't want to fit in?

A nod to Johnny Cash
Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."
Well, he must o' thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named "Sue."

Artist, designer and teacher Ophelia Chong explores her adopted city of Los Angeles with an eye and ear for the small moments that tests the duality of being an Asian American. Join her on her journey every Thursday on KCET's SoCal blog

Photo: George Joseph Chong

About the Author

A true multi-tasker: illustrator, designer, teacher, networker and writer of short blasts of pent up hot air.
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Great write up Ophelia! Coming from an Americanized named Latino, who doesn't fit the typical American description of a 'Jason,' I'm glad my parents (more so my mother) decided to go with their gut instinct of giving me this name. They broke away from my paternal family's known trend of naming their sons 'Carlos.' Although the name is common in the states, it did stand out among my Hispanic peers. And in that way, I always felt it made me unique, even if it was only among them.

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thanks so much jason for visiting! Our names have so much history, not only from our parents but from their's. Our uniqueness is made from a community effort. :O)