"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".