Choosing Names for Multicultural Babies

Great name! Day dream for you non-lucky folks (I have the instant translating package sitting beside me.

My girl will be Ning Jing ( 寧靜 ) = serenity
My unfortunate last name is How (very), so she will be very serene.

[quote=“OP”]Who says we have to use one name at one time our entire lives? In many cultures today or in the past, it was common for people to have multiple names for various purposes or phases in their lives (pen names, honorific names, religious names, and names for coming of age, the death of a parent, etc.) I see no reason why using multiple names should be objectionable in anyway.

That’s the deal here. Here I get called Teacher, Husband, Father, SistersHusband, OwenDaddy, IainDaddy,ShiShangMing,ShiXianSheng, ShuShu, even Uncle by kids whose parents think that’s the correct way to address a white man, plus my actual first name. The given name part of my Chinese name? Never, never ever.

For some reason, given names are the norm at Academia Sinica. Anywhere else, it’s a big no no.

English first names are used in Taiwan among people with no foreign connection whatsoever, who speak no English, or any other foreign language. This may be because they’re not sure which of the other possibilities is PC, or perhaps they just want to seem cosmopolitan and cool. Either way, the Taiwanese are happy with loads of names.

In the UK, I only ever get called by my first name (or Daddy). No-one even calls me Mr Smith, although I suppose someone like a bank manager might.

In our case, like x3m, we thought one name per person was enough. 歐文 for Owen, 毅恩 for Iain. And my wife’s surname, cos there ain’t no Smith字 in Chinese!

Two surnames? With respect, that’s well weird.

[quote=“Tigerman”]My boy has an English and a Chinese name. He uses each in different circumstances. He used his Chinese name all through Taiwanese school and now uses his English name at his new school (American-international school). He uses his English name on his US passport and US stuff.

For the first 3 years of his life, my wife and in-laws couldn’t agree on a Chinese name that was suitable (auspicious) to all of them, so we called him 仔仔 (zai zai), which just means “small boy”. His English name is Zack, after my older brother, Zichory Zachary, who died at birth. My wife was none too keen on naming him after my unfortunate brother, and when my boy became sick at a week old and had to live in two different hospitals for two months, my wife was convinced that I was an idiot for naming Zack after my ill-fated brother, especially since my father’s older brother also died at birth and we were living in the house where my grandfather was born… my wife was convinced that we had bad luck in my family and in that house and that naming our boy Zack was just inviting trouble and ill-fortune in through the front door… We still call him 仔仔 occassionally.

Anyway, no problem with two names… one Chinese and one English.[/quote]

cultural difference here i suppose. The western thinking commends you for remembering your brother in such a significant way. But the Chinese dont want any links to “death” . Chinese only visit graveyards once a year on Tomb Sweeping day and would normally not want to be in a graveyard any other day. Whereas Westerners often visit the grave of a loved one anytime they feel like it and have no problems with that. You are to be commended for remembering your brother this way. However, your wifes feelings on that are understandable in context as well. Glad your son is fine now. IT was surely coincidental his being ill. I dont think it had anything to do with his name.

Just thought I would add my 2 cents to the discussion.

My wife and I had a daughter 2 years ago. We decided that she would have my wifes surname in Chinese (Since my Chinese surname was something that was randomly picked because it sounded somewhat similar to my English name) and my surname in English. However, a short time later at the household registration office we were informed that because the child’s mother has a brother she is not allowed to take the mother’s surname, but must take the father’s. We were rather dissapointed. However, then she mentioned that I could change my name (in Chinese)

After a week of trying out new names and asking my teacher to come up with some names for me I settled on a good new Chinese name. 黃德肯 It is actually really appropriate for joining my wifes family. The 黃 is of course my wife’s surname and my English name is Duncan… so 德肯 sounds similar, but funnily enough, the second name for boys born into my wifes family in her generation is 德 so it worked out really well.

So my daughters names are
黃品樺 (the 品樺 came from a fortune teller)
Erinn Noreen Quinlivan-Hall (Erinn is a name my wife and I like, and Noreen is my Grandmothers name)

– Duncan

p.s. I know my name is almost like KFC backwards… I found that out after I offically changed it and they warned me I couldn’t change again… Advice, if you are picking a new Chinese name (for yourself or your children) give the name to a class of kids to try out for a week… see if they can come up with anything funny. Nobody, teacher, wife, friends thought about the KFC connection until I told it to my first class and in 10 seconds they had made it. :frowning: Oh well.

we were considering duncan: it’s one of the rare male names that works in english and chinese. but we couldn’t find a good deng.

we should make a list of these names.

boys: owen, iain/ian, julian, leo, duncan, louis (french pron)
girls: hannah 漢妠 very cool, julie, nina, susan, leann(e)

can you think of others?

We thought that it would get a bit confusing having a chinese and a european name for our son. So we tried to find a name that was interchangeable no matter what situation our son was in. He would carry my (the father’s) surname and a given name. We decided on Kai, which we both still like. My wife pulled some ‘old chinese tradition’ on me that the grandparents choose the middle name - to complement the given name - which is what happened. Can’t say that I’m particuarly happy about that to this day… but too late now.

I had a similarly unhappy experience with my first wife and her father. The wife had already chosen Sean as an English name and I thought that was a good choice. Then, we go off to see a Chinese fortune teller and receive a list of names that all had the same number of strokes in them. By huge coincidence, a month before the child was born, we saw a movie where a character called Sean had his name written 尚恩 (pronounced Shang-en) in the sub-titles. It had the same number of strokes as the names recommended by the fortune teller! I thought this was excellent and we both agreed to use that name.

However, father-in-law pointed out that it wasn’t on the list provided by the fortune teller and he proceeded to choose another name. And, his very obedient daughter then registered the one her father had chosen.

It pisses me off to this day.

hehe… I know how that pisses you off Queenslander. But the fortune teller does not only consider the strokes. Even the total strokes is the same, you still have to count seperately and consider the Ying-Yang of each character and the element it is belong(Wu Xing五行,木火土金水wood, fire, earth, metal, and water).

That does not make sense to you. But it is very hard to affect those who believe very much. So forget it. Because you don’t call your son in Chinese. (Unless you speak Chinese at home)

My aunt in Hongky and my uncle is Indian. They don’t speak each other’s language instead of English. My aunt also speaks mandrin. So when they named their baby, that is really troublesome. But at the end, they gave up. They ask my uncle’s family to name the baby in Indian (dunno which language they use), and ask my grandma to name the baby in Cantonese and ask my family how does that sounds like in Mandrin. (My father is from Hong Kong but married my mom to Taiwan and all of us speaks Mandarin at home). What they do is just make a English name for their baby using in Canada. Because they don’t regist the baby outside of Canada, the official name is English. But they call the baby different name at home.

Phew! What a headscratcher!

What was chosen English name?

I started a lens on Squidoo about Choosing a Chinese name. I will link to this thread from there. I’d be interested in more suggestions for books and on-line resources in English for choosing a Chinese name. There do not seem to be many.

The link is:

I tried to post the widgets here, but this forum doesn’t accept javascript in the posts.

[quote=“smithsgj”]In the UK, I only ever get called by my first name (or Daddy). No-one even calls me Mr Smith, although I suppose someone like a bank manager might.

In our case, like x3m, we thought one name per person was enough. 歐文 for Owen, 毅恩 for Iain. And my wife’s surname, cos there ain’t no Smith字 in Chinese!

Two surnames? With respect, that’s well weird.[/quote]

I too am a Smith (I think there are more of us than the Chinese; perhaps we could have our own country). So my Chinese family name has always been 史. Firstly because it bears a resemblance and secondly, because I love history. Being a hard ass I wanted my son to have my English and Chinese family name. However, it was pointed out to me that at the hospital, when they refer to my son, as 史兒子 it will sound too much like death’s son or dead son. Not one for superstition, but I see the point. Anyway, it’s not like it’s my real name, it’s not even registered as my Chinese name.
Anyway, I decided I would register and take my wife’s Chinese family name as at least that has some real world relevance. So my Chinese name is now 甘.
However, I’ve made it very clear to all that he’s still my son and my family and I’m not giving or loaning him to anyone in any way or form, and he’s not going to be responsible to look after anyone either. Whether they like that or not I couldn’t be arsed.

So my son will have two names as he will have two passports. For Taiwan he will have his mothers family name (or mine if you like, as that is now my family name, too), and for South Africa he will have Smith as his family name. I don’t see any problem with this and I think it works quite nicely.

I see many folks have been quite accommodating with allowing spouses parents to choose names, and in many cases not being happy with it. I’ve been a little inflexible and have rather taken what my wife and I prefer into consideration here than her folks. I’ve played the Taiwanese (Chinese?) cultural card here. That is, as the woman she has married into my family, she is now part of my family, must worship my ancestors etc etc… At first that was a gamble I took but it seems they bought it. It may also be that she only has one sibling (an older brother) and that her father is somewhat estranged from the family. In any event, I’ve gotten away with it.
I did this because:
a - I don’t want my child to have a name that either of us may be unhappy with in the future.
b - I’m a Christian and wish to raise my child that way (including not having him “blessed” in a local temple or having his name divined by a fortune teller). Whatever your thoughts are on this matter, it’s my family, my responsibility and what I believe is really not stranger than what anyone else on the planet believes, least of all traditional Taiwanese beliefs.

I actually feel very strongly about these things, and although I respect other people’s beliefs, I don’t want them thrust upon me. When my child is old enough to choose for himself he may do so without any grudges, but I want to raise him as I see fit (as I’m sure all of you wish to do, also). Additionally, I find the naming of a child to be very special, especially for parents.
I decided on the name Joshua Alexander with my wife. She considered it and said she likes the Chinese name 書亞. So that’s the Chinese name we’re considering. I did bend alittle on the Chinese name and said her and her mother could think about it and perhaps come up with something else. I’m not too worried, as long as my wife is happy with the Chinese name, and it’s not something that’s being forced on her by relatives.

I also quite like the idea of our child having a Chinese and an English name. I feel it celebrates both aspects of his heritage. I don’t see any problem with it.

It has been very enlightening to read about other people’s experiences in this regard and a lot of what you guys have said here has given me some pause for thought.

Any thoughts, positive or negative, on 書亞 will be appreciated.