Archive for Names

Bèibèi panda

Bloix asked:

Can someone tell me if the name of the new panda cub, Bei Bei, really means "precious treasure"? If it does, how does that work? Does Bei mean treasure and the duplication is emphasis? Or what?

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Two unusual Japanese names

From time to time, one encounters Japanese names that evoke bygone days.  In Japan, though, things that are archaic somehow manage to stay alive in the present.  Two realms in which that happens fairly often are place names and surnames.

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President Obama has a strange moniker among netizens in China:  Guānhǎi 观海 (“Sea-watcher”).  Variants include Àoguānhǎi 奥观海 ("O'sea-watcher"; cf. "Homa Obama") and Guānhǎi tóngzhì 观海同志 ("Comrade Sea-watcher").

How in the world did Obama acquire this bizarre Chinese nickname?

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Calvin Ho sent in the following photograph:

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Goldensmell salt and milkfish balls

Jackie and Mimi, Toni Tan's daughters, spotted two interesting products at the Asian supermarket near their home.

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The kitchen sink

Randy Alexander asks:

How do you say this in Chinese?

This seems to be another one of those things where there is no standard name for it. Almost everyone I ask has a different name for it, and they have to think for a moment when I ask then how to say it in Chinese.

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Blatter beast

Is it just me, or does "Sepp Blatter" sound like the name of an alien creature in a Star Wars episode or some other sci-fi story? Put together the sep of (e.g.) septic tank of corruption and the blatter of Douglas Adams's ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal and you've really got a name that phonologically conjures up a monstrous creature from beyond.

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7,530,000 mainlanders petition Taiwan actress to change her name

From David Moser:

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Wonton in Zanthoxylum schinifolium etzucc sauce

From Nancy Friedman (@Fritinancy):

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Names of the chemical elements in Chinese

Mike Pope relayed to me the following from his son Zack, a high school physics teacher:

I was wondering what the periodic table of elements looked like in China, and found this image.

This may or may not be the "official" periodic table, but I thought it was interesting to see the similarities in the characters. Specifically the character for gold, which is also the character for metal in general, and is a prefix for a large portion of the periodic table. The character for water is a large part of the character for mercury, and a few others, and all of the gas elements have the same character in them. It makes me wonder what the protocol is for naming new elements in Chinese, since they seem to be focused on the properties of the element itself, and that would take more investigating than might be possible for new elements, which usually only exist for fractions of fractions of seconds. Newly discovered elements these days are named (in English) after people: Bohrium, Rutherfordium, Fermium, Einstenium, etc. and I wonder what the Chinese equivalent of those elements is.

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"Farcical names"

Chinese have long been giving themselves some rather unusual English names.

V. K. Wellington Koo (famous diplomat [1888-1985]), AKA Koo Vi Kyuin, Ku Wei-chün, Gu Weijun

Cream (female author in Hong Kong)

Aplomb (male currently in Buffalo, New York)

IcyFire (female in Taiwan)

Achilles Fang (a teacher of mine)

Apollo Wu (a language learning software developer)

Every year when I go through the hundred plus files of applicants for our graduate program from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, I am tickled by the amazing names that Chinese choose for themselves.

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Fake account spotting on Facebook

One language-related story in the British press over the weekend was that Gavin McGowan was threatened by Facebook with having his account shut down… because they said his name was fake.

About ten years ago Gavin learned some Scottish Gaelic and started using the Gaelic spelling of his name: Gabhan Mac A Ghobhainn. Facebook is apparently running software designed to spot bogus accounts on the basis of the letter-strings used to name them. Gabhan's name evidently failed the test.

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Asian (con)fusion

Michael Robinson sent in the following photograph of a restaurant which I believe is in the Inner Richmond section of San Francisco:

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