Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What's In a Name?


I started the paperwork for the re-adopt, the process that will grant Jie Jie and English birth certificate. It's also my chance to come up with her final name.

I'm not good at naming anything, whether it's a cat or person or even a business. Jie Jie's name is her given Chinese name. It's unusual, but short. She doesn't want a different name, and I don't blame her. I like it; it suits her. How she pronounces her name is completely impossible to spell and it's what I call her myself. The formal pronounciation of her name is quite easy to say and this is what I taught her to introduce herself as.

So far, she isn't good at naming anything either, from dolls to kittens. She still doesn't understand what I mean by English or Chinese, but I think today she just started getting a glimmer of understanding.

I looked at the Social Security name list, which ranks the top 1000 names for 2010 and there's not one on there that suits her. Next, I looked at Chinese names and found something we both like, something to add for a middle name. It's not hard to pronounce, but it's not easy either. It decribes her to a T and it's pretty. There is also a famous Chinese swimmer with that name and Jie Jie loves to swim, so I thought that was coincidental. We both like it. Jie Jie also likes the Chinese surname she came with, which is the name all the children at her SWI have. Since she lived there for so long, I do consider it part of her identity and the way the orphanage director pronounced her whole name was nice, so I don't mind keeping it in her name somewhere. However, I'd hate for a Chinese person to come up to me someday and say I really named her something nonsensical.

The Chinese people I know have encouraged me to give her a simple English name. All the guides in China for the agencies had English names. My dad told me that all the kids in school in Taiwan introduce themselves by English names.

We live in a diverse world, now, though. Is an English name truly necessary?

I would love to hear your comments on this.

7 comments:

laurajonesjournal said...

wow. Both of our newly adopted girls love their new names and don't want to be called by the old names. We refer to the old names and chinese names and the new names their "mommy names" just from mommy, I guess. They both love to hear the stories behind their mommy names...one after a favorite friend of mine who encouraged me to adopt again, one after my favorite flower, the Zinnia. Anyways, I'm sure God will let you know what you should do in your case. If she loves her name then maybe it's best to leave it. We had picked the new names out before traveling to China and in China I told their nanny to tell them that in America they would have new names that mommy picked out. They both smiled at that and seemed excited. It was odd for the first week, then went away. Now it is normal.
Blessings to you as you decide.
I can imagine the sound of "Jie Jie" because of hearing my daughters say it for big sister, I think. Cute!

doreen said...

Hello, we gave both of our daughters English names and kept their Chinese names as their middle names. Our older daughter was adopted as an infant so there was never any confusion for her. However, our recently adopted daughter (age 10; home for 3 mos) readily uses her English name. Most Chinese people that we know (including family) have both English and Chinese names. Best wishes! Love your blog!

Karen said...

Absolutely not necessary, but common. We have a LOT of Chinese American friends (many of them are first generation or second generation Americans, and they have both Chinese names and English names, so do their children. They refer to their children in Chinese as if they're using their "pet names" for them, but while in public they call them their American names.

Our thought was to always consider naming our daughter an American name, with her given Chinese name as a second middle name, that way if she likes her Chinese name more when she is older, she can use her middle name. Right now, she identifies with it, but when she's 10 or 15, or 20 and in college, she might identify more with an American name. Also, when she gets a career/job, most people will mess up her name, either employers or patrons in her field if it's only her Chinese name, so again, this would give her an opportunity to use one name for work purposes and another for private family and friends purposes.

You're right about the names fitting together also. Our daughter's Chinese name is (sir name), Qing Rong. We considered using just Qing as her second middle name, and then we considered using just Rong as her second middle name, but my accupuncturist (raised in Hong Kong) read the names in Chinese for me, and said that they were definitely to be placed together. Otherwise, it would be like having a child named Sally in China and either deciding to name her Sal or Ly. They are both different than Sally. But, we were strongly advised against keeping the sir name. Names in Chinese mean something, but sir names do not. It would be like naming her Beautiful Lotus Garcia (your last name)...or if you kept the sir name in the front, even stranger with Garcia Beautiful Lotus (Your last name). Garcia just doesnt fit, except for the purpose of allowing her to have something she came from China with. And for us, that was her given Chinese name itself, not the shared sir name.
I know it's difficult deciding, but IMO, I would give both American and CHinese names, so she can decide when she is older and wiser, without having to legally change a thing.

Cristy said...

I agree with all the posters before me. We gave our girls an American name (we picked because of each of the meanings that were special to us at the time, and still are) they have a family middle name (oldest girls have one part of my name, twins have their grandma's names) and then their given Chinese names. We call them their chinese names at home, although Sofia hates it when we do. I would include a special family member's name so that she also has a special connection to her forever family. You can call her the Chinese name if she prefers, but as she grows, if she wants to use her American name, she can. Blessings to you as you make your decision. Also thank you for your wonderful suggestions for Celia. We are working with a nutritionist to help us with the very best feedings to maximize her health. We are also researching Sofia to see if she can help her sister as well. RIght now, we are being told that is a closed door, but you never really know.

AandAsMama said...

I think since you both like her Chinese name she should keep it. If you feel that you want her to have an option for an English name at some point maybe come up with one for a middle name. I don't see anything wrong with her having a few middle names if necessary. She can alway choose to drop some of them when she is older. You do such an amazing job of figuring out what if just right for her without worrying if it's right for other people and I think that's awesome! You are an incredible advocate for your daughter and I know whatever you decide on will be just right.

foreverfamily said...

In college many of my Taiwanese friends also had english names. Some still go by these names. not because they're easier for others to say but because they identify with it now and enjoy their "english" experiences. I think you do what is right for right now and later will take care of itself.

MJ said...

I think an English middle name would be a sweet gift from you and something she could either use-or ignore-when she is older.