The issuance of nicknames to people is common practice and are usually a lot of fun. The Chinese people do it often as our own James Pham discovered.
“Fruit Sister”, “Pikachu” and “Curly Blessing” are just a few of the nicknames the Chinese have for celebrities based on appearance, habits, inside jokes and what Western names sound like in Chinese.
“Fruit Sister” is no other than singer Katy Perry, so named for her colorful wardrobe and concert fruit props, while Leonardo DiCaprio’s nickname of “Pikachu” came after a news anchor mispronounced the film star’s last name. “Curly Blessing” is Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes for his stylish mop of hair together with the Chinese pronunciation of “Sherlock Holmes”.
Try guessing which tennis players from this year’s Shanghai Rolex Masters have earned these Chinese nicknames from fans and media? (English nicknames followed by Chinese pinyin. No looking in advance but scroll down for the answers.)
1. “Tofu” (dou fu)
2. “Wooden Horse” (mu ma). Hint: Think Greek mythology.
3. “Little Fresh Meat” (xiao xian rou)
4. “Grapefruit” (you zi)
5. “Four Eggs” (si dan)
6. “Mother Kim’s Brother” (ke ma de di di)
7. “Cutie” (meng meng)
8. The Monkey King (da shi xiong)
9. Princess Ziwei (Xia Zi wei)
10. The Chicken (de ji)
BONUS: Which top player (he’s won Shanghai Rolex Masters before) is known as “The Cow” (nai nu)?
1. “Tofu” is Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Fried, steamed or fresh, tofu is easily cooked in many ways referring to Gasquet’s prowess as an all-court player.
2. “Wooden Horse” figures in Homer’s Iliad as the “Horse of Troy”, a nickname for Serbian Viktor Troicki based on his last name.
3. “Little fresh meat” refers to any young player, especially fan favorites Sasha Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Taylor Fritz.
4. “You zi” (“Grapefruit”) is Mikhail Youzhny based on his last name.
5. “Four eggs” is French Open champ Stan Wawrinka. “Si” is Chinese for “four”, while “dan” means “eggs”. Said quickly, “si dan” sounds very much like “Stan”.
6. Firstly, “Mother Kim” is none other than Kim Clijsters, the first mother to win a major since 1980. So based on their physical resemblance, “Mother Kim’s Brother” is Canada’s Milos Raonic.
7. “Cutie” is two-time Shanghai finalist Gilles Simon. “Meng” means “cute” in Chinese, similar to the final syllable in Simon’s last name.
8. The “Handsome Monkey King” is China’s favorite superhero from the 16th century Chinese folk novel “Journey to the West”. Amazingly strong, with the ability to fly and battle demons and dragons, the lovable character bears a resemblance to Juan Martin del Potro, especially when sporting a five o’clock shadow.
9. Princess Ziwei is a character from the smash Chinese TV program “My Fair Princess”, a Cinderella-like story set in the 18th century Qing dynasty. “Ziwei” is similar to the way Chinese pronounce “Zverev”, making Alexander Zverev the honorary “Princess Ziwei”.
10. Novak Djokovic has been dubbed “The Chicken” since early in his career for two reasons: “chicken” refers to a new, up-and-coming, popular star and “tua ji” or “chicken” sounds like “dj”, the first two letters of his last name. Bonus: Djokovic is also called “nao lai”, meaning “outgoing”, a play on his Serbian nickname “Nole” and his entertaining personality.
BONUS: Ever since receiving a cow at the 2003 Swiss Open (and a second one named Desiree at the 2013 Swiss Open), Roger Federer has been affectionately known by Chinese fans as “nai nu” or “The Cow”.