Asian movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw died this month. Much has been written about the 106-year-old philanthropist's colourful life and I have nothing more to add, except to say that his name had nothing to do with rickshaws or him scuttling about in a hurry. "Shaw Run Run" is simply a phonetic rendering of his Chinese given name, which would be "Shao Renleng" in pinyin. His other Chinese name, "Yat-fu" ("Yifu" in pinyin), was an alias. The practice of taking on one or more aliases on top of one's given name at birth was de rigueur among the Chinese for more than 2,000 years. Usually, men and women acquired a zi when they turned 20 and 15, respectively (or when a woman was betrothed). According to the Book of Rites, from the Confucian canon, it was disrespectful for an adult to address a peer by his or her birth name, and so a zi was necessary for polite social intercourse. Only a person's older relatives and teachers could call him by his birth name. By the first half of the 20th century, few Chinese still gave themselves traditional aliases. But in recent years, "neo- zi " - such as John, Susan, Tomoko, Mango, Egg, Omelette … I could go on - have become popular in Hong Kong, the mainland and Taiwan.