Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A chrysanthemum by any other name....

We have two flower girls in the family. Abby is our Rose and Maya is our Chrysanthemum.

When I was pregnant with Abby, the two big kids were infatuated with the book "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes. If you have little girls, you've probably read it. It's a very cute children's book about a mouse named Chrysanthemum who loves her name..... until she starts school.

Adam and Madeline wanted to name their soon-to-be-born sister Chrysanthemum. Or Blossom Sprout. Or just Flower. One thing they knew for sure was that their sister needed to have a floral name. So we compromised with Abigail Rose. Five years later we got Qiu Ju's referral and learned that her Chinese name translates to Autumn Chrysanthemum. It was so perfect. Adam and Madeline finally got their sister Chrysanthemum.

I love to tell Chinese people Maya's name because without fail they say that Qiu 秋天 and Ju 菊 are wonderful, auspicious characters and that Maya should feel very proud of her name. The Qiu part of her name, Autumn, is pronounced "Cho", rhymes with go. For purposes of this post, I'll just spell it like that because I know from personal experience the mental strain it requires to look at "Qi" and say "Ch".

Cho Ju was one of many Chos in the orphanage. Each one of the children were named for the season in which they were found, so roughly 25% were Chos. To cut down on the confusion, they mostly just referred to the babies by the second name, in Maya's case, Ju, Chrysanthemum. In China, when speaking to children, it's common to double the name, "Ju Ju" or to add "Ah" before a name. So Maya was typically called Ju Ju or Ah Ju. Those names never really stuck with us because Ju, at least the way we pronounce it, sounds just like the religion, and Ah Ju sounds like the juice you dip your roast beef sandwiches in.

But Cho has stuck. I use her Chinese name frequently and when I do I feel like I'm affirming our love of her birth country and in a very small way keeping the promise I made to the CCAA that I'd help Maya remember China. But if the CCAA heard me say her name, oh they'd cringe. They'd so cringe to hear me call her:

Choey (frequently--almost as much as Maya)



The Choster
....and many other equally horrible variations on the Cho theme.

I butcher that poor girl's wonderful name written with the auspicious character. And while I think I'm doing her a favor by hanging onto that little piece of China, I defile her name with my American-ness and make it so awful that neither country wants to claim it.
America: Nope, the name Choey certainly doesn't come from us. We've got Zoey and Chloe, but no Choey. China, this one's on you.
China: 没有办法我們會使用這樣一個可笑名字!!!!! No Way.

So I'm sorry Choey about the Chinese-American hodgepodge of a name. I can't help it. If Abby went to China, a woman there would be unable to just call her Abby. She'd have to call her "Abby Abby" or "Ah Abby". She'd have no choice. And you are absolutely too cute to just be Cho. I simply must call you Choey. And pinch your sweet cheeks. I have no choice. Too dang Chobalicious.

The rest of you do horrid things to your kids' names, right? Please tell me it's not just me.


Nikki said...

Well, really Eileen, it's just you... and my entire family, and the people at church, and the teachers at school. So, truly you are not alone! :) I am actually a name-purist (probably not a real term), but I am fighting an uphill battle. When Jessica was born, her uncle called her Jessie Jayne (and I was such an anti-western completely suburban CA girl!). Then the children started the nicknames. Rachel's name for Mason is Bubba (I picture an uneducated, unkept, greasy, large, dark-haired, pale-faced man in stained overalls for some reason whenever I hear that name - not what I had in mind for my darling little blond boy!) Somebody in the family also came up with Natsee-booz for Natalie. Recently, Alina has started calling all the kids Chicken, as in "Come on Chickens!" You can imagine how well that has been received. And there is this very sweet young man at church who is trying to invent a nickname for Elizabeth. He is very concerned that she is strictly Elizabeth and not Lizzy, Beth, Betty, Ellie, etc. Therefore, I think having your name slaughtered by those you love and who love you is simply a rite of passage!

Kelly said...

Nay, Vansie, Chan Chan, Audreygirl, and Liza Loo wouldn't know what you're talking about....

Lisa Cairney said...

Tell The Choster that when I was young, and still today, my dad called me "Cho-be". Long story, but I can relate to her Cho-ness. And if I was her mama, I would also probably call the sweet and lovely Miss Maya, "Cho' Mama!" :) She looks so pretty, Eileen....and I love that you have held on to her chinese matter how slaughtered it is! :)

Eileen said...

Lisa, we also use Cho-be. And Cho Mama, wow, I hadn't even thought of that one!

Fireball said...

Luke turned into Lukie, which turned into Lukie Boo, and now he's just Boo. The older two I call Monster and Monster Breath. Nah, you're not the only mom who has fun with her kids' names.