"What's in a name?" According to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, not too much. "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But Shakespeare may have been wrong. In most cultures, names and titles matter a great deal.
??Americans choose names for their children with care. Parents usually think about the impression a name gives, not its meaning. Most Americans would consider a "Jennifer" more attractive than a "Bertha," for example. The last name, or surname, must also be considered when choosing a first and middle name. A name like Lester Chester Hester would sound poetic, but odd. Parents may avoid names that remind them of people they don't like. On the other hand, people might name their children after a respected older relative or even a famous person. The popularity of certain names can change with each new generation. Names that were once common, like Fanny or Elmer, sound old-fashioned today. But other names-like John and David, Mary and Sarah-have stood the test of time and continue to be favorites.
??People in America don't always call their friends and relatives by their given names. Instead, they often use nicknames. Sometimes nicknames are short forms of a longer name. For instance, a girl named Elizabeth may be called Lisa, Beth or Betsy. As children grow up, they may decide for themselves which nickname they wish to be called. If they consider their nickname childish, they may start using a more adult form. Some people just go by the initials of their first and middle names, like B.J. or R.C. And of course, people may call their children or their sweethearts other special nicknames. Often they have a "sweet" flavor, like Honey or Sugar.
??In informal settings, people are normally on a first-name basis. Sometimes older folks even allow young people to call them by their first name. But in most formal situations, people use an appropriate title-such as Mr. (Mister), Ms. ("Miz"), Dr. (doctor) or Prof. (professor)-with a person's last name. After an introduction, the person may say, for example, "Please call me Tom." If not, use his or her surname.
??Americans still use a few very formal titles which reflect their Old World heritage. The British address their king and queen as Your Majesty; Americans address the judge in a court as Your Honor. Americans speaking to their nation's leader respectfully call him Mr. President. And many churches refer to their leader as Reverend. In everyday situations, the polite forms sir and madam (or ma'am) show a measure of respect. But Americans don't generally use the names of occupations or positions as formal titles. Students might address their teacher as Mr. (or Ms.) Hudson, but not Teacher Hudson.
??What's in a name? A world of significance. So if you're choosing an English name for yourself, take care to choose a good one. A made-up name could sound strange to native English speakers. And a translation of your Chinese name may not make an appropriate name, either. But a good name can leave a positive and lasting impression. As an American politician once remarked, "In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears."