Archive for Names

Sun-moon mountain-wood

Boris Kootzenko was intrigued by this sign in China:

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Nguyen: the most common Vietnamese surname

Dave Cragin writes:

I have a brother-in-law who is originally from Hong Kong and his last name is Yuen.  I learned from John McWhorter’s superb series on linguistics that this Chinese name is of Turkic origin.  I asked my brother-in-law about this and he said “Yes, family lore is that we originally came from North-West China” (i.e., where Turkic people had settled.)

According to Wikipedia, the Mandarin equivalent of Yuen is Ruan (阮) and the Vietnamese is Nguyễn.  Wikipedia further notes an estimated 40% of Vietnamese share this name.

I wonder if readers have information that contradicts the above – or is it correct?  (I’d like to know that our family story is accurate).  Is there a Turkish/Turkic equivalent of Yuen or did it remain Yuen?

Also, are there any other common last names that cover such a wide geographic, linguistic, and cultural span, particularly from such ancient times? (obviously, in modern times, people move everywhere).

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Coffee Yao, Finger Chen, Doy Chiang, and colleagues

Thorin Engeseth noticed that, at the end of the Taiwanese video game “Detention”, there are some interesting adopted Western names among the people involved in the game’s creation — especially Coffee, Finger, and Smiler:

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Haifa subway station names

In several recent posts, I have pointed out how Chinese and Japanese announcements and greetings for foreigners are often pronounced in a special way that deviates markedly from what Chinese and Japanese would say to each other:

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Bus announcements in Okinawa

Travis Seifman noticed something interesting about the announcements on certain public bus lines in Okinawa: the pronunciation of Japanese / Okinawan place names in the English-language announcements is way off.


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Chinese transcriptions of Donald Trump’s surname

From the following post, we see that there are three main ways to transcribe Donald Trump’s given name in Chinese and two main ways to transcribe his surname:

Transcription of “Barack Obama”, “Hillary Clinton”, and “Donald Trump” in the Sinosphere” (10/2/16)

Here are the two prevailing transcriptions of “Trump” in Chinese characters:

Tèlǎngpǔ 特朗普 (mainland China, Macau, Malaysia/Singapore) — 4,970,000 ghits

Chuānpǔ 川普 (Taiwan, Hong Kong, but also on the mainland, especially on the internet) — 1,570,000 ghits

N.B.:  The relative popularity of these two forms is shifting among different groups in all of the designated regions.

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Changing fashions in Chinese names

This morning, an instructor in Jiangsu province, who has been teaching Chinese Culture in college English classes for 12 years and has also been giving lectures on Chinese Culture to international students, wrote to ask about the possibility of becoming a visiting scholar at Penn for half a year.  She introduced herself to me as Lǐ Fǔluòwá 李甫洛娃.  Her name threw me for a loop.

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China’s “core” leader

I’ve been reading countless reports about how Xi Jinping was made the “core” leader of China during the recently concluded meeting (6th Plenum) of the CCP, e.g.:

China’s Communist Party Declares Xi Jinping ‘Core’ Leader

China’s Ruling Party Endorses Xi as ‘Core Leader’ After Meeting” (RFA, 10/27/16)

Down to the core:  Xi Jinping gets a new label, but no more power: In China, a year of political infighting lies ahead” (The Economist, 10/27/16)

China’s Xi Jinping Tightens His Hold on Communist Party:  Officials at conclave designate the president as the ‘core’ of the leadership, using title conferred on Mao Zedong ” (WSJ, 10/27/16)

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*Notice, in the photograph accompanying this article (and many other articles), all the members of the Standing Committee, seated at the front of the hall facing us, raise their hands in exactly the same way (angle, height, position of thumb versus other fingers, etc.).  The other members of the Politburo, with their backs to us, also match the posture of the Standing Committee members, but not with such exactitude.

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Phono-semantic rebranding

There’s a new article on linguistic borrowing by Jane C. Hu in Quartz (10/23/16):  “The genius and stupidity of corporate America are on display when companies rebrand for new countries“.  The article originally had a better title:  “Phono-semantic matching is corporate America’s best option when trying to rebrand for new countries”.

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More old names for Singapore

We have already studied an old name for Singapore on the back of an envelope dating to 1901:

Now, Ruben de Jong, relying on the works of Dutch scholars, has discovered several others.

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Transcription of “Barack Obama”, “Hillary Clinton”, and “Donald Trump” in the Sinosphere

How do you write Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump’s names in Chinese?

As it turns out, the answer may vary depending on whether the person you ask is from mainland China (ZH-CN), Hong Kong (ZH-HK), Macau (ZH-MO), Malaysia/Singapore (ZH-SG), or Taiwan (ZH-TW).

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The perils of “7” and “9” in Cantonese

Here we go again:

“Samsung’s Galaxy On7 goes official” (Marketing-Interactive, 9/28/16)

As we’ve covered shortly two weeks ago, the pronunciation of “7″ sounds like “penis” in Cantonese, and the latest Samsung Galaxy On7 launch has once again stirred up discussion on the internet in Hong Kong.

The Cantonese pronunciation of  “On9″ [sic: there seems to be a mix-up here] is similar to slang meaning “stupid”, and many are saying the new release is a crossover between the two slang words.

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Strictly correct plurals of flower names

It has come to my attention that many laypeople, even Language Log readers, are using incorrect plurals for flower names. “Geraniums” indeed! “Crocuses”, for heaven’s sake! Please get these right. There follows a list of 30 count nouns naming flowers, together with their approved grammatically correct plurals. Don’t use incorrect plurals any more. Shape up.

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