Lost in Translation

A young man from China arrived in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. He knew very little English but was eager to adopt a convenient English name for a new life. His friend had advised to use Sam Ding, which was simple, easy to pronounce, and sounded more or less like his Chinese name.

During that era, many immigrants did not have travel documents for various reasons. Ding was one of them. The US immigration staff would meet them at the port of entry to do screening and registration.

An officer had just finished registering Antonio Fuentes, the man waiting in front. He then turned to Ding and asked for his name.
“Sam Ding”, Ding tried to pronounce as accurately as he could.
“Okay! Same thing”, the officer acknowledged.
He then wrote down “Antonio Fuentes, Jr.” on the form.

The Chinese immigrant came out of registration with a fancy name. Instead of Sam Ding, he wound up with one that he could not even pronounce!

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