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Invented Chinese Names Rejected in San Francisco Elections

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Hong Le nonetheless remembers assembly a charismatic girl campaigning for San Francisco district lawyer in 2003. In Cantonese, that girl’s title was 賀錦麗, which is pronounced Ho Gam-lai and means “Congratulate Brocade Stunning.”

Most People know her by one other title: Kamala Harris.

“She’s the vice chairman proper now,” Mr. Le, 88, stated in Cantonese. “And he or she deserves it.”

In San Francisco, the place greater than a fifth of residents are of Chinese language descent, politicians have lengthy taken a second title in Chinese language characters. And any severe candidate is aware of to order marketing campaign supplies in English and in Chinese language.

However the metropolis’s leniency for adopted names has pissed off some Chinese language American candidates, who say that non-Chinese language rivals have gone overboard by utilizing flattering, flowery phrases that initially look have little to do with their precise names. Some candidates have gained a bonus or engaged in cultural appropriation, the critics say.

No extra. For the primary time, San Francisco has rejected Chinese language names submitted by 22 candidates, normally as a result of they might not show they’d used the names for a minimum of two years. Town has requested translators to furnish names which can be transliterated, a course of that extra intently approximates English pronunciations.

Meaning Michael Isaku Begert, who’s operating to maintain his native judgeship, can’t use 米高義, which implies partly “excessive” and “justice,” a reputation that implies he was destined to sit down on the bench.

And Daniel Lurie, who’s difficult Mayor London Breed, should scrap the title he had been campaigning with for months: 羅瑞德, which implies “auspicious” and “advantage.” Mr. Lurie’s new title, 丹尼爾·羅偉, pronounced Daan-nei-ji Lo-wai, is a transliterated model that makes use of characters nearer to the sound of his title in English however are meaningless when strung collectively.

Most Chinese language names function two to 3 characters — a surname, and a one- or two-character given title. Within the Chinese language-speaking world, selecting a child’s title can carry a lot weight that some dad and mom nonetheless seek the advice of fortune tellers who think about elements like the precise time of beginning and the variety of brush strokes in a personality to counsel an auspicious moniker imbued with that means.

The federal Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions with a major variety of voters who aren’t fluent in English — like the massive Cantonese-speaking inhabitants in San Francisco — present translated ballots and voter supplies. The act, nonetheless, leaves it as much as native election officers to determine whether or not that features candidates’ names.

Sure cities in Alaska should translate ballots into Yup’ik, an Indigenous Alaskan language, whereas some counties in Arizona should accomplish that in Navajo and Apache. Tons of of jurisdictions across the nation must translate their ballots into Spanish, whereas 19 should print them in Chinese language, 12 in Vietnamese and 4 in Korean.

San Francisco has mandated since 1999 that candidates’ names seem in each English and Chinese language. However now, in adherence to a 2019 state regulation, it’s requiring transliteration for brand spanking new candidates whereas permitting those that can show they’ve used a Chinese language title for a minimum of two years to maintain utilizing it. (The regulation additionally applies to ballots printed in Japanese and Korean.)

The swap isn’t universally widespread. It ends a San Francisco custom, cherished in some circles, during which Chinese language leaders have bestowed names upon their favourite candidates. And it has the potential of leading to lengthy monikers which can be troublesome to recollect and even cringe-worthy, for the reason that characters that sound like somebody’s title could translate into odd phrases in Chinese language.

Fiona Ma, the California state treasurer, backed the legislative effort in 2019 after inconsistent insurance policies had resulted in her Chinese language title being modified with out her data.

Ms. Ma, the daughter of immigrants from China, had used her given Chinese language title — 馬世雲, that means “Horse Worldly Cloud” — on the poll for the reason that early 2000s, when she first ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She stated she had all the time taken pleasure in her title, and the Chinese language-language media had lengthy referred to her by it. However Ms. Ma discovered that her title had been modified to a transliteration on the June 2018 poll.

The laws that Ms. Ma sponsored set new floor guidelines. She needed to make sure that candidates with a authentic declare to a Chinese language title might use them, but additionally that others not achieve an unfair benefit by making up flattering names.

“If it’s a great title, like ‘Most Superb Reliable Individual’ or ‘Professional Public Security,’ then it might make a distinction,” Ms. Ma stated.

At a recreation heart in San Francisco’s Richmond District, some voters stated {that a} candidate’s title has much less affect on whom they select than what one has performed. Mr. Le stated between video games of ping pong that it mattered extra to him whether or not candidates addressed the wants of the Chinese language group.

“For those who care, we’ll know your title,” he stated.

Jen Nossokoff, a first-time candidate operating for the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee in March and for the Board of Supervisors in November, stated she acquired a reputation, 高素貞, from a Chinese language supporter final summer time. The title is pronounced Gou Sou-zing in Cantonese, and calls to thoughts a widely known Chinese folk character who’s thought to be an emblem of kindheartedness.

“It means integrity,” she stated. “It means ambition.”

She printed the title on her marketing campaign indicators, a lot of which grasp within the home windows of her neighbors’ properties.

However the title was rejected by the Division of Elections, which just lately assigned her a transliterated title, 珍·諾索科夫, or Zan Nok-sok-fo-fu in Cantonese — a hodgepodge moniker that has not one of the lofty symbolism of her desired title.

Voters at the moment are casting their ballots for the March 5 election, and Ms. Nossokoff stated it’s complicated that the title on her marketing campaign literature doesn’t match the one on the poll. She stated the mandated title change was unfair as a result of her opponent within the supervisor’s race, the incumbent Connie Chan, is the one who notified the Division of Elections that it was violating state regulation.

Ms. Chan, 45, a local of Hong Kong, moved to San Francisco’s Chinatown along with her mom and youthful brother when she was 13. Her given title was Szeman, however she shortly modified it after arriving in the USA as a result of, she stated, it “appears like semen.”

As an alternative, she joined legions of different Chinese language ladies her age and formally modified her title to honor Connie Chung, the trailblazing information anchor.

Ms. Chan, understanding the state had handed the 2019 regulation, wrote a letter of inquiry final fall to town’s Division of Elections. It’s nonetheless unclear why town wasn’t abiding by state regulation — the elections chief John Arntz stated he didn’t know — and the Board of Supervisors unanimously directed Mr. Arntz’s division to conform.

Mr. Arntz stated that candidates can use a beginning certificates or perhaps a wedding ceremony invitation to show they’ve a authentic declare to a Chinese language title. In any other case, town will present their transliterated names.

“I really feel strongly that our Chinese language names are usually not a pattern,” Ms. Chan stated. “It signifies a relationship with the group that I’m unsure they’ve labored exhausting to construct. It’s cultural appropriation.”

Ms. Chan has bestowed Chinese language names on white colleagues previously. When Supervisor Matt Dorsey was the spokesman for town lawyer in 2016, he needed a Chinese language title that would seem persistently within the Chinese language press reasonably than having reporters provide you with totally different translated variations in several shops.

Ms. Chan, then a Metropolis Corridor aide herself, thought he had demonstrated his dedication to the Chinese language group via his years of public service. She gave him a reputation that sounded much like Matt Dorsey and had a pleasing that means.

Properly, form of.

He’s now recognized within the Chinese language group as 麥德誠: “Form Barley.”

Zhe Wu offered Cantonese interpretation for this story.



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