Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's In a Name? Part 2


Thank you all for your comments. Please keep them coming.

A note to some readers who joined later, Jie Jie means big sister in Chinese and is not my daughter's name, nor do I call her this. It is only her online pseudonym.

So far, my aunty agrees with me about not being able to imagine Jie Jie with an English name. Understand, this is coming from an aunty with 6 children who each have a Hawaiian name and an English name, 3 go by their Hawaiian name and 3 go by their English name. My own middle name is Hawaiian and I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. One sister goes by her Hawaiian name and one brother goes by his Japanese name. So, growing up having to spell and explain one's name is quite common in my family.

My dad suggests going with what I feel is right for my daughter and, after some thought, after I caught him in the middle of a nasty computer problem, says he likes the name I found and that it's more important to do what I think is right for us then trying to please people who hear her name. But, he did say that when he's been in Taiwan, all his friends give their kids English names and the school kids introduce themselves using their English names.

The first part of my daughter's name comes from a saying, "Spare no effort; do one's utmost," and the second part has to do with water (forgive me for being vague, but I don't want anyone to be able to look her name up, I have a public blog by value my privacy). The two names don't have to go together, but on her translated Chinese birth certificate, the names in English are put together with an apostrophe. Total, there are only 4 letters in her name.

Unusually, it seems that the first part of her first name is actually more connected to the orphanage surname. Many of the children at her SWI have the same first part of the name after the surname. In fact, they seemed to have only a few names that they used, my daughter's part being extrememly common and another name, Meng, is used a lot as the first part of the first name of many of the children.

What makes her name unique is the way she pronounces it. I don't know if this is a sort of baby way of saying her name, like an endearment of it, a local dialect, or what. She is so used to hearing her name said this way that when I use it, even if I'm in another room on the phone discussing her name, she comes to me, thinking I've called her over. Other than me, only children seem to say it like she does.

The Chinese middle name that I'm considering means the two exact words that I've always used to describe her from the moment I met her and got to know her. I couldn't believe that there was a name with those two words together. It's very pretty and I almost wish I could use it as her first name. But, as a middle name, it flows nicely with her first name and our last name.

She likes having her SWI surname in there, too, but I still need to find out if it's appropriate in Chinese or would be an error.

As for family names, the beautiful Hawaiian names have been used to death. Each time another family member uses them, it's a chorus of, "Oh no, another one." Honestly, I don't like our English family names, not even my own, which is why I go by the Japanese version of the nickname for this name. Our names are not common these days but were when we were named, they are not unusual either, but I don't think they sound pretty at all. They certainly don't fit Jie Jie. Does she look like a Roberta, Polly, Marguerite or Hazel to you?

As for Jie Jie, she is already learning that when people ask her name, it's easier for them to say it the formal way, rather than the common nickname way or the endearment nickname way. I guess this is the best way to explain it:

The Formal Way (just like it's written, w/o surname)
Common Nickname (repeating part of the name two times)
Endearment or dialect nickname (impossible to spell)

I'm going to think of this some more....

P.S. 11:48pm I was re-watching our Family Day video of when we met and I can hear the orphanage director in the background calling my daughter using her name as my daughter pronounces it, endearment or dialect way, but when I ask how to pronounce it, she gave me the Formal Way. It's amazing how much more I notice every time I watch the video.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

The first name (as opposed to surname) that you describe as most of the children from the orphanage sharing is traditionally the generational names that all children of a generation share within a family. For instance, all the girls at my daughter's orphanage who were born in 1998 were named Zou (surname) Yong (generational name) and then a unique name that identified each child uniquely. That unique name was then doubled and used as an endearment when calling the child (as opposed to referring to her as JieJie or MeiMei).

This pattern is traditionally followed by Chinese families.