What’s in a Name?


My friend relates that ever since Jeremy Lin got famous, she never had to spell her name again. When she’s asked how is her name spelled, she’ll reply, “It’s Lin, as in Jeremy Lin.”

For my part, it has not been that rosy. I’m Cha Lim and I did not have any problems before, where my surname was concerned. In the past two months, though, my name was misspelled twice, from “Lim” to “Lin.”

The first time this happened, it was an inconvenience. I had to request for a new document with the proper spelling. The second time a lady called to verify if it was an “M” or an “N?” I told the lady, “It’s L-I-M. M as in mother.” I did not realize that for that lady, “mother” is spelled, “nother.”

I was upset when I first received the letter. Then, I realized that we wrote “M” on the application form, and the lady called to verify. However, her mind was already made up that my name is “LIN,” and not “LIM.”

While I was fuming about this, I suddenly realized that the “Lin” name is very famous because of Jeremy Lin. I can’t argue with that. Jeremy Lin is a great model for the youth. This was the Gospel message of Bishop Su, during the Confirmation ceremony of my sons. Jeremy Lin even wears a bracelet that says, “I pray for God.” For this, I am so glad. Jeremy not only plays well, he can bring the message of salvation to a lot of people around the world.

Let’s go back to the subject of names. The surnames Lim, Lin, and Lam, all have the same Chinese character. However, the Romanized version is pronounced and spelled differently in the various Chinese dialects.  Lim is for Fookien, Lin is for Mandarin, and Lam is for Cantonese. It can be a bit confusing to a lot of people.

Thinking back, I should have used another way of clarifying the confusion. The Taiwanese pronounce ” M” quite differently. The letter “M” is pronounced, “Emo,” which rhymes with, “Elmo,” of Sesame Street fame. If I had used that, then, I would have no problem at all!

16 more days to go until Dragon Boat festival!

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