"Tigger Chen" and "Instant Noodle Sister"

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In "Fly High, Frog Princess! Well Done, Chen No. 3!  The world’s most popular Olympians are household names. But to Chinese fans who delight in creating nicknames, they’re different characters entirely", Andrew Keh and John Liu (NYT, 2/15/22) highlight some of the affectionate monikers that have been applied to athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics.  Here I extract several of the favorites:

Chén Sān 陈三 ("Chen No. 3") = Nathan Chen (figure skater), three-time World champion, three-time Grand Prix Final champion.

[This nickname] requires some understanding of international figure skating history. In the eyes of Chinese skating fans, he is the third prominent skater from North America with the Chinese surname Chen, which, in English, can also be spelled Chin, Chan or Tan, depending on the original dialect. Before him came Tiffany Chin, who was the U.S. national champion in 1985, and Patrick Chan, the 2018 Olympic gold medalist from Canada.

Chen's Chinese name is Chén Wēi 陈巍; some fans call him “Tigger” (Tiàotiào hǔ 跳跳虎), using the Chinese translation for the Winnie the Pooh character.

Fāngbiànmiàn jiě 方便面姐 ("Instant Noodle Sister") = Eteri Tutberidze (Russian figure skating coach), who has dense, blond curls

Qīngwā Gōngzhǔ 青蛙公主 ("Frog Princess") = Eileen Gu (freestyle skier), from a green helmet she once wore in competition

Guǎi Líng 拐凌 (lit., "twisted tower") = another nickname for Eileen Gu, this one "a phonetic smoothing of the first two syllables of Gu’s Chinese name, Gǔ Àilíng 谷爱凌, to make a well-meaning joke about the fact that the (recte the) she speaks Chinese with a Beijing accent. (The accent is often the subject of gentle ribbing in China for its contractions and jammed-up syllables.)"

The article addresses a number of other athletes' nicknames, not all of them competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics.  But I'll leave you with a puzzle:  on the Dartmouth basketball team, I was called "Quags".  You'll never guess how I got that nickname.


Selected reading


[h.t. Ben Zimmer]


  1. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 15, 2022 @ 9:57 pm

    Mair > Mire > Quagmire?

  2. Victor Mair said,

    February 15, 2022 @ 11:20 pm

    Wow! Amazing! You got it!!!

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    February 16, 2022 @ 5:26 am

    Well, I would never have guessed that in a million years. In my mind , I have always pronounced Victor's surname as bi-syllabic /ˌmeɪ ˈɪər/, although I now see that, had I consulted Wikipedia (and if the latter is accurate), I would have known that it should be monosyllabic /mɛər/. But never /ˈmaɪər/ !

  4. Victor Mair said,

    February 16, 2022 @ 7:55 am

    I started to write a short comment to explain how it happened that my basketball teammates called me "Quags", but it soon grew to great length, so I'll make a separate post on this topic when I get a chance.

  5. M. Paul Shore said,

    February 17, 2022 @ 6:41 am

    For those who are curious to know more about the Tiffany Chin/Patrick Chan/Nathan Chen surname equivalence, in Mandarin it’s all the same surname, namely 陳 (simplified character 陈) Chén. Tiffany Chen’s Chinese name is 陳婷婷 (simplified characters 陈婷婷) Mandarin Chén Tíngtíng. Patrick Chan’s Chinese name is 陳偉群 (simplified characters 陈伟群), Mandarin Chén Wěiqún. And Nathan Chen’s Chinese name is 陳巍 (simplified characters 陈巍) Mandarin Chén Wēi.

  6. M. Paul Shore said,

    February 17, 2022 @ 6:52 am

    Correction to my preceding post: “Tiffany Chin’s [not “Chen’s”] Chinese name is [. . .]”. I proofread the post (which I’d actually written almost all of yesterday) over and over, hit “Submit comment”, and then noticed the mistake instantly once I saw the text in its new typeface. So painful.

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