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Life / Lost in Translation

A Chinese Name…

A few months ago I joined the gym. I had to fill out the usual paperwork; name, address etc.etc. However, I was apparently unable to use my English (real) name as the computer system could only take Chinese characters. Because of this, I was asked to make up a Chinese name for myself on the spot, there and then.

I thought about calling myself something cool but also something that Chinese people would really appreciate. I decided to go for “Lü Bu” a character in Chinese history that has been romanticised into being a godlike man. He was unmatched in combat and fighting ability, ate and drank more than any other man at banquets, had one of the most beautiful wives in Chinese history – you know, the full works.

So Lü Bu would be my new Chinese name. It would make me sound like a cool guy and Chinese people would appreciate my knowledge of their folklore/history.




I proudly told the receptionist my new Chinese name and she looked at me with a ‘well if you say so’ kind of face whilst the guy behind just laughed. I guessed it was a bit funny, it’s the equivalent of a Chinese guy coming to England and deciding he was going to be called “King Arthur” or something.

We filled in the rest of the sheet and then she gave me the sheet to look over to make sure there were no mistakes. It was all in Chinese, so, like all these important documents I have to sign here, I just said it was all perfectly accurate.

The paperwork was filed, the gym ID card was printed out all with my brand spanking new, super cool Chinese name onto it. I go home proudly and feeling content that everything went so surprisingly smoothly.

I come back to the gym the next day and I hand my card over to a different receptionist. She looks at my name and giggles. She hands the card back and I take a look at it again. I noticed the characters written on the name section… and they looked a bit different to the ones I was expecting.

When the original receptionist had filled in paperwork, instead of writing the name I ad thought I asked for – “Lü Bu”, she had in fact written “luóbo”.


Luóbo translates in English to Radish.


My Chinese name is now officially Radish.


It has been well over a month by this point, but whenever I go to the gym all the personal trainers all still laugh at me and call me radish …

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