SHANGHAI: When it comes to Chinese names for Western celebrities, “Sweet Tea” is definitely hot, “Fruit Sister” is off the menu, and an ample posterior can have you anointed “Lord of Butt”.
Chinese is expressed using idiomatic characters rather than an alphabet, making it difficult to use the language to transliterate foreign names, and opening the door for a range of creative and often bizarre appellations for well-known stars.
The recent Academy Awards minted a new star in China, Timothee Chalamet, a best actor nominee for — ironically — “Call Me By Your Name”.
He is known as “Tian Cha” or “Sweet Tea”, a play on the first syllables in his names and a nod to his heart-throb looks.
He is now among the hottest celebrities on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, the subject of posts like: “Come and drink this cup of sweet tea, until the summer.”
Things are not so sweet these days, however, for “Shui Guo Jie” or “Fruit Sister”, also known as Katy Perry, so-dubbed because of the fruit-coloured costumes she is known to perform in.
US media reported that the singer was dropped as a headliner for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show in November last year after she was denied a visa, possibly because she had previously draped herself in the flag of China’s diplomatic rival Taiwan.
In China’s hyperactive cybersphere, some names get propagated to the point where some people might find them obscure, as in the case of actress Jennifer Lawrence, or “Da Biaojie” (“Big Cousin”).
But most seem to be more logical.
British actor Tom Hardy is known as “Tang Lao Shi”. “Lao Shi” means “always wet”, apparently because of his typically slicked-back hair.
Another hair-inspired name belongs to Benedict Cumberbatch, who sports a curly top in the “Sherlock Holmes” series and has been dubbed “Juan Fu” (“Curly blessing”).
China’s passion for flavourful food has led to “Xiao Tian Tian” (“Little Sweetie”) for Britney Spears, and “Ma La Ji” (“Little Spicy Chicken”) for sex-symbol singer Nicki Minaj.
Last but not least, there’s Jennifer Lopez, whose well-known posterior has earned her the designation “Luo Ba”, or “Lord of Butt”.