Friday, February 17, 2006

The Life and Times of Big Ell

When Taiwanese students decide to learn English the first order of business is to get an English name. If the kids are young the naming goes to the parents or a teacher, if they are old enough they give themselves a name. The most popular names are usually quite generic. Occasionally a student will have a phonetic representation of their Chinese names. Other popular names usually end with the hard vowel sound e. Other students choose their names based on popular celebrities like Jordan (Michael Jordan), Jacky (Jacky Chan or Jacky Wu), Coco (Coco Lee), Tiger (Tiger Woods) Harry (Harry Potter) etc. An incredible amount are misspelled so check out Mark’s pet peeves at Doubting to Shuo for his take.

In honor of this ‘tradition,’ I have tried to remember some of the best names I have heard in my eight plus years on the island.
  • Cartoons: Mowgli (a feral 3 three old, now a normal 10 year old), Tom and Jerry (twin brothers), an inordinate amount of kids named Minnie and Mickey, Tigger, Garfield, Linus (not really that weird), Snoopy, Nemo and Kitty. Funny no one named Doraemon yet.
  • Furniture: Seat, Couch and one Table.
  • Pro Wrestlers: Rock, the Game (used to be Kevin but he really loves the WWF) and Hulk (not sure if he was the wrestler or just Incredible.)
  • Natural Phenomenon: Rainbow (One of the few ALE members who actually learned anything), Cloudy, Sunny and Water,
  • Animals: Lion, Kitty, Eagle and my favorite Bat.
  • Adjectives: Dark (now changed to Darko), Wisdom (ironically he doesn’t have much), First (the oldest boy), Chinese (given by her mom), Powerful shortened to Power (with his little brother Plus) and a couple of women named Shiny.
  • Verbs: Link and Follow.
  • Fashion: Gucci (often mispronounced Guggi), LV and Chanel.
  • Music: Jazz and Bono.
  • Computers: Acer (with a sister named Guggie)
  • Toys: Numerous Yo-Yos and one Slinky (sorry I made that up)
  • Body parts: A little girl named Titty. A man named Brain.
  • Miscellaneous: NATAS (Satan backwards, really, really, into the occult.), Nigger (a gangster rap lover from Kaoshiung), Yorg, Olio (a very thick kid), Lala (a very nice little girl), Braid (now Brad) and Elf (named by his big brother after watching Lords of the Ring.)
Unfortunately no one named Big Ell but one Elliot which is one t away from my name.

My favorite names came from the lowest level class at Washington High School. Basically a class of sweat hogs who had rich folks and zero intention of learning any English or any subject for that matter. On my first day of class I gave roll call. My class was all boys. I was heartened to see many names based on NBA players like McGrady, Nash and Jordan. I immediately thought I would be able to reach them through basketball. I could mould their minds like James Edward Olmos in "Stand by Me." Then I started to read out names like Vivian (an overweight thug), Mary (Vivian’s bitch), Coco (one gene short) and two Barbies (Barbie 1 and Barbie 2). I knew I was in trouble. The fact that they had turned their desks to face the back of the class should have been my first clue. I can honestly say they learned next to nothing. The top student told me to “Suck my cock!” when I called his name. They were one of my favorite classes.



Fraser said...

I always figured that Coco was short of Coco Chanel. Guess I was giving credit where none was due.

Other names

Body parts: Iris
Cars: Galant-the low level mobster car
Brand names: Nokia, Chanel
Hippy: Petal
Also heard: Million, Grand (oddly quite conceited), Q

d-dave said...

heya you mention that the difference between compass and voice is that voice writers are employed by the advertisers...

no no no they are people who like to write, and they do it for free. i write for both mags...compass pays me, voice doesnt, and thats all okay.

compass typically has 1 feature article around page 28-32. voice has several articles...very few promoting any advertisers. in was all about taipei! not too many taichung restaurants going to get promoted in an article about taipei.

i have been kicking around taichung for over 5 years...we must know each other. check my blog at

take care and cya round!

BigEll said...

D-Dave: That maybe true but I read an article by Mark Chan extolling the virtues of Jen Ai Hospital in the Voice and it didn't mention that he is a project manager at the same hospital.

Mark said...

I once had a student who changed his name weekly. It was always something weird like "Deep", or a solitary question mark. He wouldn't wear school uniforms either. Interesting guy.