by Wenlan Chia
June 25th, 2008
A few years ago, I received an email from a stranger, who had just adopted a Chinese baby girl and wanted to name her Wenlan. She wanted to know what my name means. People often say that my name is â€œprettyâ€ by the sound of it; but, once they learn what it means, their eyes twinkle as if they just spotted an adorable puppy. I replied to the stranger with the answer that Wenlan means â€œorchid in mist.â€
Yet, this is not entirely what my name means. Or rather, Wenlan can mean many other things as well but I choose this image- orchid in mist. It was probably what my dad expected his first daughter to be when he gave me the name.
I have always thought that the most uncreative part of English was the names. Of course, different names attract certain moods. We acquire love and romance from â€œJuliet, modernity from â€œStephanie,â€ and manliness from â€œJackâ€. But there is little room for imagination. Do I want it to be pretty Anna. Classic? Grace. Smart? Hilary. Sweet? Renee. Passionate? Scarlet. And if you arenâ€™t a celebrity that isnâ€™t concerned with being too adventurous with names, it might be hard to get away with Apple.
In Chinese, you can create unique names by combining characters. But, even with endless choices, many Chinese parents still settle with common names. The â€œ-lanâ€ in my first name means orchid and is a common character for girlâ€™s name. There was a girl named Ling-lan in my 8th grade. And the two of use felt we were too cool for being one of the â€œ-lansâ€. When she found out my sisterâ€™s name, Ai-lan, she couldnâ€™t help but burst into sad laughter. â€œShouldnâ€™t one lan enough for your household? â€œWen-â€œ is a relatively abstract word. People rarely use it nowadays. The dictionary says it was used in classic Chinese literature to describe talented writing. The mist surrounds mountain is also referred as â€œwenâ€. So, I guess my name has two literal meanings: good writing orchid or mountain mist orchid. I twist it a little and say â€œorchid in mistâ€ because of its beautiful image.
Unless you are a storyteller or a writer, one rarely has the opportunity to give names on a regular basis. My dad was not happy with the name my sister gave her daughter. But, my sister told him his naming right had ended with us two. A modern woman like my sister probably does not plan to have too many children so she wants to enjoy the opportunity of naming her own kids. Many have this joy when naming their pets â€“ like my husband and I did with my French bulldog. But, the real fun began when I decided to give a name to each Twinkle creation.
Naming clothes is fun because the choices are limitless, bold, humorous, wild, and over the top. Some of my favorites from Twinkleâ€™s Holiday 08 collection include â€œIllusionistâ€, a fake double-layered mohair cardigan and â€œSimply Darlingâ€, a sweet black and white button down blouse. Memorable names from past seasons are: â€œSweat Peaâ€ for a high-waist full dome shape skirt, â€œAhoyâ€ for a black and white striped chunky knit cardigan, â€œJet Starâ€ for a black techo fabric hoodie with bat sleeves, and â€œNever a Bridesmaidâ€ for a sexy black lace top.
If naming blouse and skirt is like writing a newspaper column, then naming a dress is like writing a short story with a plot, characters, and complicated relationships. A dress needs a character to play it. For example, â€œSnow Bunnyâ€, a tuxedo inspired spaghetti dress for the cocktail-ready lady; â€œBook Wormâ€, a white shirtdress with button details for a sharp daydreamer; and Final Bow, a bold multi color dress, is for a woman that wants to make an entrance.
Naming a print is even more challenging, since it is so abstract- almost like writing a poem. Yet, when the inspiration strikes, its rhythm and imagery magically flow. My favorites are a dark grey-bluish color called â€œMonsoonâ€ and a light foggy color called â€œDew lightâ€. They both are for a print named â€œImpressionistâ€. A geometric velvet burn out fabric is named â€œMoon Danceâ€, which captures the mystery of the pattern and luxe quality. Naming has become a fun game in the office as well. We debated what the best name for a beautiful silver jacquard fabric might be and finally settled with Taj Mahal.
People say your design is like your baby. I enjoy the parenting part of naming. It gives me sheer joy when a good name screams the essence of the design. The difference between naming my baby and a real baby is that mine has already gone through its growing pain. So when I give names, I have fun without fearing that the name will be mismatched. But, naming an actual baby is built on so much expectation and hope. My sisterâ€™s first child is Yuelan and my dog is named Milan. For different reasons, they both have â€œ-lanâ€ in their names. Or maybe, my family just canâ€™t get enough of this beautiful flower.
MonsoonÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Dewlight