Friday, June 10, 2005

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet" - Shakespeare

My sister-in-law K. has just put up a post on her blog about about her "Starbucks name". She is living in Mexico where she says Starbucks are springing up all over the place at the moment. They make her feel at home.

The Mexican Starbucks system has it that anyone ordering coffee must give their name to the barrista. It is then written on the cup and passed down the production line. K.'s problem is that her name seems to be completely incomprehensible to the Mexican Starbucks people (I am starting to realise this post doesn't really work without providing real names). Among many corruptions she has seen written on her cup was "chi", which probably meant "chinita" or "Chinese Woman". Anyway, she eventually gave in and started giving herself "Starbucks names", names that the barrista could actually understand. Her two favourites were "Chiyo" and "Nori", both names that worked in Japanese and Spanish.

She was a little ashamed of her compromise with the Starbucks machine but eventually confided her dirty secret to her Japanese expatriate friends, whereupon every one of them also admitted that they had a "Starbucks name". They were rather scathing, however, of K.'s lack of gusto. If you had to give yourself a Mexican name, why not really go for it? They all had chosen far more Mexican names like "Magdalena" or "Dulcinea"?

It is interesting how names work. They are simply labels for social interaction but also holders of meaning and identity. Chinese people seem to have no compunction about adopting English names when coming to English speaking countries. A Japanese person or an English person would be much more reluctant. I suppose G.'s name is a bit "Chiyo-ish".

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just love this blog - so educational

et said...

The system is the same in Turkey, and Japenese names are imcomprehensible for Turkish Starbucks people.
(I think the first Starbucks shope opened in Istanbul in 2003.)
I sticked to using my real Japanese name, which was never correctly spelled, but in the case one of my Japanese friends living in Istanbul, her "Starbucks name" was "Ayse," a very very common name for girls, something like "Hanako."
I have to find my Starbucks name..

buyo said...

What about "Tayfun"? According to my web search it is a Turkish boy's name???? And means Typhoon, which seems to be one of the most international words in the world (with roots in Greek, Arabic and Chinese).

My web search also threw up the following intriguing name: "Göktuğ - Sky colored horsetail; chosen mostly by Air Force officer fathers". What a dashing name! If I was going to Turkish Starbucks I would most definitely use it.

I hope they have the same system in Japan!

et said...

Yes, "Tayfun" is a popular Turkish name for boys but I cannot call myself "Taihuu(台風)".
I'm now thinking to use "Emre," another popular name for boys.
I don't know its meaning, but I like it.

"Goktug" sounds very cool! It's a good idea to use it when you go to Starbucks in Turkey.

buyo said...

Just to show the glib nature of the web: "Emre - Loving friend; older brother."

AY said...

My ambition is to have a starbucks name "Esmeralda".

Apple MarTiNi said...

Starbucks guys in mexico always make the same mistake... they write whatever the hell they want... I'm mexican an when i say my name is malena they write vanesa and mariana so...
but i guess that´s what people get for going to an evil transnational such as starbucks