“My Name is Money”: English Names and Creative Play Inside and Outside the Classroom

Part of the Language and Globalization book series (LAGL)


Toward the end of the academic semester at CSU in late May 2007, Nashville, one of the students in my Level 5 Academic Writing course, asked me to come to the “English Lounge” to give a presentation. Open seven nights a week throughout the school semester, the English Lounge was a student-run organization and event space that provided CSU students with a place to practice English in a comfortable and informal environment. With its large selection of English-language videos, newspapers, board games, and magazines, it was one of the most well-known and well-attended co-curricular English programs at CSU. Already wondering why students spent so much of their free time in the evenings studying English and reasoning that most students would not be interested in another of my lectures on academic writing and how to organize paragraphs and reports, I asked Nashville if I could give a talk about English names in China. She checked with the lounge staff who said that my topic “sounds very interesting” and that they would be happy if I talked about whatever interested me. Nashville added, “And you seem so interested in our English names.”


Chinese People Chinese Student Proficiency Level English Teacher English Learner 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Blommaert, J. (2005). Situating language rights: English and Swahili in Tanzania revisited. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 9, 390–417. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-6441.2005.00298.x.
  2. Bourdieu, P. (1991). Language and symbolic power. Cambridge, England: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  3. Chan, W. (2014, October 21). Chinese state media to readers: Don’t name yourself “Dragon.” CNN. Retrieved from
  4. Cook, G. (2000). Language play, language learning. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Duff, P. (2002). The discursive co-construction of knowledge, identity, and difference: An ethnography of communication in the high school mainstream. Applied Linguistics, 23(3), 289–322. doi: 10.1093/applin/23.3.289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Edwards, R. (2006). What‘s in a name? Chinese learners and the practice of adopting “English” names. Language, Culture, and Curriculum, 19(1), 90–103. doi: 10.1080/07908310608668756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Evans, C. (2006). The great big book of baby names: A complete guide from A to Z. New York, NY: Publications International, Ltd.Google Scholar
  8. Ford, M., Mirua, I., & Masters, J. (1984). Effect of social stimulus value on academic achievement and social competence: A reconsideration of children’s first-name characteristics. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76(6), 1149–1158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Foucault, M. (1980). Power/Knowledge: Selected interviews & other writings, 1972–1977. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  10. Hessler, P. (2001). River town: Two years of the Yangtze. New York, NY: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  11. Holliday, A. (1994). Appropriate methodology and social context. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Langfitt, F. (2015, June 1). So long “Cinderella:” Website helps Chinese find better English names. NPR. Retrieved from
  13. Lee, J. (2001, February 11). China Youth Take Names From West: Hi Medusa! The New York Times. Retrieved from
  14. Makoni, B., Makoni, S., & Mashiri, P. (2007). Naming practices and language planning in Zimbabwe. Current Issues in Language Planning, 8(3), 437–467. doi: 10.2167/cilp126.0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McPherron, P. (2009). “My name is money”: Name choices and global identifications at a South Chinese University. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 29(4), 521–536. doi: 10.1080/02188790903312706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ministry of Education. (2004). College English curriculum requirements: For trial implementation. Beijing, CN: Ministry of Education Press. [In Mandarin Chinese and English].Google Scholar
  17. Nguyen, M. (2015, April 29). This website helps you build a “better” English name. NBC News. Retrieved from
  18. Norton, B. (2000/2013). Identity and language learning: Gender, ethnicity, and educational change (2nd ed.). Bristol, England: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  19. Phillips, T. (2015, March 31). US entrepreneur vows to rid China of “farcical” western names. The Telegraph. Retrieved from
  20. Rymes, B. (1986). Naming as social practice: The case of Little Creeper from Diamond Street. Language in Society, 25, 237–260 Retrieved from Scholar
  21. Said, E. (1979). Orientalism. New York, NY: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  22. Sherrod, M., & Rayback, M. (2008). Bad baby names: The worst true names parents saddled their kids with, and you can too! Provo, UT: Ancestry Publishing.Google Scholar
  23. Steele, K. M., & Smithwick, L. E. (1989). First names and first impressions: A fragile relationship. Sex Roles, 21(7), 517–523 Retrieved from Scholar
  24. Thompson, R. (2006). Bilingual, bicultural, and binominal identities: Personal name investment and the imagination in the lives of Korean Americans. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education, 5(3), 179–208. doi: 10.1207/s15327701jlie0503_1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wines, M. (2007, October 1). In a land of homemade names, Tiffany doesn‘t cut it. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hunter CollegeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations