Monday 26 January 2009

Novel Names in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Chinese have a high proportion of novel English first names that are, to say the least, creative and even daring. For example, my preliminary analysis reveals 2.5% of Hong Kong solicitors (i.e. 143 out of 5,707) have novel names. The percentage is likely to be higher now  Novel here is defined as uncommon, unusual or unique. Over the years, I have collected a fair number of novel names (which is why this blog will feature a regular "Novel Name of the Day" post).

Possessing a novel name is a phenomenon that is observed most frequently amongst Hong Kong Chinese, whereas it is relatively less common to spot a novel name amongst mainland Chinese,
Singapore Chinese and Taiwanese. What is it about the psyche of Hong Kong Chinese that compels them to create and retain odd-sounding novel names? 

From my understanding, when a population or society is unaware (or ignorant) of name rules or memes then, depending on how the relevant society regards the values of "creativity" and "conformity", there will be individuals who will adopt rare, uncommon names (e.g. Adolf) and perhaps even create their own novel names (e.g. Alnwick). Dare I ask whether expressions of creativity and free thought are relatively more common in Hong Kong? 

There are other possible reasons (e.g. mainland Chinese are latecomers in adopting English first names, Singaporeans have a relatively better grasp of traditional English, etc), and I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on this (e.g. Elmer'sLifeinHK). In the meantime, I hope this blog's "Novel Name of the Day" feature will bring some enjoyment and perhaps curiosity to readers.

Update: Please see About Novel Names

Related Posts:

0324 HKSAR Name of the Day (see comments, which are insightful)
Picking and Choosing Names: Korea

Mr Bean On Silly Names

Other people's thoughts on novel names:
Shanghai Surprise

What's in a name?


  1. how could you get the information of those people?
    cos i see there are some people from HKU

  2. So you think HKers adopt "creative" names because their grasp of English isn't as good and they're more resistant to "conformity". Before you put somebody's name up there, consider that we are an international city and there are many people from mixed cultural backgrounds. In my instance, I was given this name at birth and everybody on my father's side have been given French names for five generations because they are French-Chinese. I hope you don't come to the conclusion that everybody with a slightly unusual name is somebody who adopted it in order to stand out.

  3. Thank you Ines. I understand your point and appreciate you telling me a bit about the choice of your name.

    As you can appreciate, there are a myriad of reasons why people adopt novel names. In Hong Kong, there appears to be more than its fair share of people who have slightly unusual names. This is the reason why this blog started.

    This blog wishes to generate more awareness and discussion as to what these reasons may be. Your feedback is exactly what is needed. It would be wonderful if other people who are featured on this site could comment on the true origins of their novel names.

  4. I was named after Audrey Hepburn. It was a novel name a few generations ago, but it's getting more and more common nowadays. I wonder if you'd still consider it as one. It's really quite hard to pin down which names have gotten mainstream and which are still novel names isn't it? Interesting and thought-provoking article, by the way.

  5. Thank you Audrey for your comments. Your name is, and has been, very popular at least in the US. In other countries, it's popularity has grown in recent years. The changing values of our societies (the zeitgeist) is what makes our world interesting. Thank you for visiting this website.

    1. Testing. Having a problem replying & entering a comment. Is this blog still active? Thanks

    2. This blog is alive and kicking!