What's in a name

I recently have some business dealing with a rather powerful woman with a distinctly masculine name. While I was impressed by her candor and directness, I also wondered the extent to which that personality has had to do with the name. There was that secondary school classmate of mine who had a girl's name and to this day he still walks and talks in a very sissy way. I think such personality or peculiarity is not so much the outcome of the spell cast by those words in the name as the effect of socialisation. After all, names are given by parents and thus largely reflect the expectation parents project on the child. It is very unlikely then that this expectation moulds the way they bring up the child.

Apart from that secondary school classmate, I had a primary school classmate who was also a victim of her name or whatever the name encompassed. Many older generation Chinese people liked to have sons rather than daughters. If to their disappointment they give birth to yet another girl, they may give her a name like 'calling son', 'beckoning brother', etc. Apart from sounding ridiculous, such a name also gives the cruel message to the girl that 'it's not you we want'. And it is such a name that my primary school classmate had to live with.

She was a brilliant student, and my main rival on the academic side. Once our English teacher held a competition where those with five dictation full marks in a row would win a prize. After four dictations, 'Calling Son' and I were the only ones left to qualify. I can never forget how it hurt when after the fifth one, I was given only 98 marks because of a stupid punctuation mistake I made and she went on to claim the coveted prize! Despite her academic success, she didn't seem happy. She was much too serious and reserved for a young girl and there was hardly any smile on her face. Could it be that she had an unhappy family life, I didn't know.

Her parents got what they wanted - a son, whom they named 'Celebrating Son'. As he went to the same primary school as mine, I was able to see what a spoiled brat he was. A stark contrast to her speckless sister.

Obviously, it's more than the name itself that shapes the person.

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