The Corner

Madame Chiang Kai-Shek

BTW, it’s “Mrs. Chiang,” not “Mrs. Kai-shek.” Time for me to air once again

my plea to all Chinese people who wish to mingle with English-speakers on

friction-free terms: For goodness’ sake get yourselves an English first

name of the obvious kind. If you present yourself to us as “Zhang Li,” we

have no idea whether you are (a) Mr. Zhang, stubbornly clinging to the

surname-first Chinese style, or (b) Mr. Li, trying to accommodate yourself

to our usage by switching your name around. We have to ask you. It’s a

nuisance. If you call yourself “Robert Zhang,” we know where we are, and

things go much more smoothly, see? When I am in China I style myself “Dai

Yuehan,” as a simple courtesy to my hosts, so they know exactly where they

are. (Common Chinese surname “Dai,” “Yuehan” the common transcription of

“John.”) Will you please return the favor? If you feel so very strongly

about maintaining the pure and essential Chinese-ness of your name, perhaps

you should stay in China.

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