I happen to believe that names have an impact on a person. I have good company in that belief because Roy Feinson has written a book, The Secret Universe of Names, where he talks about this very thing. For example, here’s what he says about people with the name Irvin. “Irvins know exactly what they want out of life and…their personalities are so compelling that most people seem happy to help them out.”
Today’s Name Project interview is Irvin Lin. I met Irvin at the BlogHer Food 2011 Conference in Atlanta, and what I can say from that first, brief encounter is that the word “compelling” definitely comes to mind.
Name Interview: Irvin Lin
Irvin explained to me that he has more than one name. “Irvin is my first name. Fei-Chiang is my second name (and my Chinese name) and Lin is my family name.”
He also told me that in Chinese, his name is said “backwards” with the family name first: “Lin Fei-Chiang.” Of course, Irvin only heard it pronounced that way when his parents were mad so when he visited the homeland of his parents, Taiwan, where everyone called him by the traditional (and backwards) name, he was initially a little confused. “I kept expecting them to be angry at me, but I realized they were just using my Chinese name.”
Irvin’s parents named him after a man, Irwin, who was a mentor of his father’s. They altered the name to Irvin because his mom liked the hard “V” over the soft “W” in the name.
Irvin recognized that his name was unique and even a little strange for an Asian-American child growing up in the Midwest. But all in all, he was indifferent about his name and never really thought that much about it as a child.
But when it comes to the topic of nicknames, Irvin has a different story to tell. A close friend in college began using the phrase “jackhonky” to describe a lack of choices available. So, for example, if someone would ask, “What’s playing at the movie theater right now?” and there weren’t really any good options, his friend would reply, “Jackhonky!”
Irvin liked this phrase and began using it. He even created a blog with that name and used it as his Twitter handle. He explains, “For the first thousand followers I was ‘Jackhonky’ which caused people to think my name was ‘Jack’.”
Irvin has since changed the name of his blog to Eat the Love. But to his chagrin, his more humorous moniker persists, and even today some people in the food community still call him Jack. Irvin doesn’t think of it as a nickname, so we’ll refer to it as a “term of endearment.”
The characters for his Chinese name, Fei-Chiang, actually have meaning that relate well to Irvin’s life. The character for Fei means cultured elegance while Chiang means strong or strength.
Irvin is inspired by many things. Here’s how he explains it, “Walking down the street. Reading a book I’ve never read before. Looking at artwork. Eating at restaurant, food cart, or a friend’s house. Visiting the farmer’s market. Reading a book I’ve read a 100 times before and finding something new in it. Traveling to new places. Listening to music. Hiking in the outdoors. Hanging out with friends. Cooking in the kitchen. Baking in the kitchen. Just playing in the kitchen inspires me. And my partner A.J. I’ve been with my partner for 11 years and he is my muse and my constant source of inspiration. I never get tired of him (and hopefully vice versa). That’s how I know he’s the one for me.”
If Irvin’s cultured elegance, sense of humor, and passion for life combined with that unique name leads you to feel compelled (like me) to learn more about him, check out his site Eat the Love where he shares his award-winning baking, graphic design, and recipe developing skills for all.
Thanks to Irvin Lin for taking the time to talk to me about his name. You can check out my series, The Name Project, where I showcase excerpts of interviews with the people I meet. Names are my inspiration and The Name Project is a place for me to share with you photographs of people and stories about their names.