Sunday, May 31, 2009

Get a Real Name, Hippie

I ran across a story in the New York Times a while back that's just too good not to share:

A mind-blowing and intimidating fact about the Chinese language is that it contains over 55,000 characters. Mercifully, the vast majority of these characters have more or less gone into extinction, with many only appearing in books or ancient literature. A paltry 3,500 characters are all that is required to read a newspaper.

Added to this is an interesting fact about Chinese names. Despite this multitude of characters, 80% of all Chinese people share one of the 100 most common Chinese family names. (Which is why it might seem like there are millions of Mr. Chen's in the world - there are millions of them.)

However, given names are quite the opposite and can be chosen from any combination of the 55,000 characters in the library. Similar to the recent creative explosion in hilariously imaginative names in America, parents in China love combing through these rarely-used characters in search of a name that is truly unique or possesses a special meaning for their children.

Here's where the problem comes in. The Chinese government's Public Security Bureau just got a new computer system. However, it only recognizes approximately 32,000 characters. If the characters in your name are one of these left-out 20,000, there is no way to enter you into the system.

What to do? Change your name. That is the solution put forth by the Chinese government. If your name doesn't fit our system, it's time for a new one. You shouldn't have had such a ridiculous name in the first place.

I'm curious to see how people would react to a similar law in the States.

Read the full article at The New York Times

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