Why would anyone insist on having more than one name, you might ask. Then too, why do so many insist on having only one? Is not the motivation for having one or many the same?

Changing timesThere was a time, when society was much simpler than it is today, and individuals strove to make their life interesting. In today’s world those who succeed are often those who have learned best how to make things simple.

If you think living in one modern society is complicated enough, try living in many, each with its own unique language and culture. Perhaps it would be only then that you could truly appreciate the need for more than one name. The case for dictatorshipOh, you can be a dictator about what people call you when you live in someone else's society, and insist that everyone learn to speak all over again. Under such circumstances, however, the only people who would be your friends are those who might want to learn your language or already know it. In short, most people of our world have neither the need, nor desire to change the way they speak on account of foreigners, and teaching other peoples’ tongues to wag differently from the way they are accustomed is not an easy task.

Of course, what happens in most cases is people call you what their tongues will allow with the least amount of training and adjustment, and you adjust your ear to accommodate the new sounds -- audio adjustments appear to be much easier than muscular. Sound and muscle If you are lucky, everyone will come to agreement about the new sound for your name, and after a modest effort to learn your host society’s language, you can even come to understand how the sound of your new name came about.

If you
thought sound was the only problem
Unfortunately, sound is often only half the battle. For example, writing an English name in German or French is easy, writing a German or French name in English can be more difficult, and writing an English, German, or French name in Japanese or Chinese is an altogether different story.

Alternatively, you could create a completely new name -- one, that has the “look and feel” of your host language and culture, but does not leave your host society thinking that you are cheating. Indeed, many people do not wish to call foreigners by names identical with those normally associated with people from their own culture. A kind of social driver’s license with whole nations of examiners After all, each of us has spent many years -- often decades -- of both rigorous and informal training learning what it means to be a German, a Frenchman, a Frenchwoman, a Chinese, a Japanese, or even a Hong Konger. In short, no society wants to award its names to just anyone.

Now, if you thought any of the above difficult to understand or annoying, you might just prefer to stay at home, or find a host culture that uses names identical to those commonly employed by natives of your own culture and language of origin. Fighting crime,
and official accommodation
Certainly, such a choice would make it easier for government officials, who usually insist that your only correct name is the one printed in your passport or on your certificate of birth. Let us not be anti-establishment, however. People in authority have a serious job to perform, and it is difficult enough distinguishing between the good and bad citizens of one’s own society, let alone those of another’s. Criminals contribute little to our general social welfare, as you might be well aware.

Since changing names can be used as a means of social camouflage enabling us to hide from the punishment of our crimes or bad behavior, many people are wont to view name-changing as a sign of social irresponsibility or even childishness.Just doing what is needed   In order to avoid such stigma I have gone through great effort to provide continuity to my names, so that I am true to both myself and those with whom I associate.

Sometime before
my great,
Hamo originated from the name Hashimori, which has its origin in the name Stegemann -- my father’s adopted surname. My father’s father died when he was very young, and when my grandmother remarried, my father adopted his step-father’s surname. I never knew either my father’s genetic father or his first step-father. By the time I came into being my grandmother had already married three times!

The name Stegemann is German in origin and can be broken into two simpler German words: der Steg (m,s), die Stege (m,pl) meaning something similar to paths, bridges, or alley ways, on the one hand; and der Mann (m,s) meaning man, husband, or person, on the other. So, Bridgeman is about as close in translation to a common English name as one can come. A problem of attitudeI offer this English translation, because I live in Asia, and many East Asians invariably equate blond eyes and blue hair with British imperialism and post-war US expansionism -- and, of course, English language conversation practice!

Putting the pieces togetherOnce the pieces of my name have been properly disassembled, one can reassemble them in a variety of ways whose outcomes depend on the language in question. Initially my goal was to find a name which resembled a Japanese name. I chose Hashimori. This name has the sound of a common Japanese surname, but is fairly uncommon and sometimes even thought of as non-Japanese. Among the three choices for each of the German words Stege and Mann I chose the words bridges and person. The Japanese equivalents for Stege and Mann translate into hashi and hito. Though Hashihito has a very Japanese ring, it is strange and unfamiliar to Japanese as a name. One of my former students in a life-long English conversation class in Yokohama came up with the idea of changing hito to mori. It was so that my name Hashimori was born! The Japanese word mori means guardian, and hashimori means “guardian of bridges”.

Coming to terms with my host nationHamo is a derivative of Hashimori and took much less time to develop.

Have you ever lived in a British colony?When I arrived in Hong Kong for my first time, I was amazed by the frequency and ubiquity of English given names among Hong Kong citizens. It was my first time in a former British colony, and I had a lot to learn. Moreover, I knew very little Chinese and was reluctant to commit myself to a Chinese name that I would later regret for lack of familiarity with Chinese language and customs. Notwithstanding, I had no desire to be viewed as a British colonialist, or an American neo-imperialist for that matter, and quickly set to work finding a Hong Kong nickname.

While in the company of a MainlanderIt fell upon me one day, while in discussion with a student from the Chinese mainland. I quickly wrote the sound in English on a piece of paper and noticed that it contained the first syllables of the two word elements of my Japanese surname Hashimori -- the “ha” of hashi and the “mo” of mori. Until that moment I had never been very comfortable with a nickname, and was not really sure that I even wanted one. In contrast to Hashimori that eventually became an officially registered Japanese substitute for my surname Stegemann, Hamo was just an amusing tag. (For more insight into the origin of Hashimori please see an essay entitled “The Derivation of Hashimori Iwato”.)

Sweet surrender!Alas, after about 10 full months in Hong Kong with my first real nickname, I have finally grown fond of it.

Hamo is an easy name for Hong Kong residents to read, write, and pronounce, is a delightful mimicry of Hong Kong naming etiquette and culture, and is sufficiently universal in sound that my name is no longer directly associated with a British colonialist upon first meeting. British etiquette anyone?I am having one problem, however. Most everyone in Hong Kong insists upon placing a title in front of my nickname. Rather, than merely “Hamo”, I am frequently addressed as “Mr. Hamo”. Of course, this problem is easily resolved when I reply with “Miss Diane”, “Ms. Ivonne”, or “Mr. Richard”.

Hope for the future?Maybe someday I will find a Chinese equivalent for Stegemann and Hashimori, but this will of course depend on my further reception in Chinese society.

Created (YY/MM/DD): 04/03/21

Two or three years laterWell, it took a while, but a Cantonese name was eventually achieved, and I shed my nickname. Unfortunately, my Chinese name never found its way into an official Hong Kong registry, as I was compelled to leave Hong Kong before I could become a permanent resident.


kiu4 sau2

Kiu Sau is Cantonese for Hashimori and Stegemann. In English Kiu means bridge, and Sau means protect. Thus, together Kiu Sau means a guardian of bridges.


Another Cultural Revolution!
Although most Chinese names are formed with three characters (a family name plus two others), many Chinese, who were born on the Chinese mainland during the Cultural Revolution, have only two characters in their name. In effect, I have split my German family name into two Chinese names, and have thus preserved both my Japanese and German identities.

Kiu is a common family name in China -- simply the Chinese character used to represent it is different. As Chinese given names are very flexible, the name Sau easily passes as a Chinese given name. Thus, from a Japanese, German, and American family name a Chinese family and given name arose.

Most important is that Kiu Sau is easy for Chinese to pronounce, write, and even spell. It is a good name and very appropriate for a Westerner. I can be thought of as a Western mainlander brought up during the Cultural Revolution!

The superscripts that accompany the English transcription of the two Chinese characters that form my name are indicators of intonation. The 4 represents a constant middle tone; the 2 represents a rising middle or high tone.