Thursday, July 22, 2004

Baby's name

A fellow blogger, James, was trying to find a good name for his soon-to-be-born son.  And I tell you, it is not an easy task.

A chinese name basically consists of 3 parts.  The family name, the middle name and the given name.  Basically we retain the family name and we need to think of a middle name and a given name that will make up the baby's name. 

I can still remember how we named yiyi.  As we didn't know the sex of the baby before she was born (it was meant to be a surprise for us), so we need to come out with both boy's name and a girl's name.  Finding a girl's name was relatively easier than a boy's name.  You see, the middle name also acts as a generation name.  Although this was loosely followed by Malaysian Chinese, some family still follow the generation name list which was penned down by our great great great grandfather hundred of years ago (the list covers hundreds of generation).  And this include my family.  The middle name or the generation name basically tells you which generation you are from.  Although girls are exempted from this generation name, it is compulsory for a boy's name.  So, since the middle name is already pre-determined, it should now be easier to just think of another given name to him, right?  Wrong!  Having a pre-determined middle name doesn't help at all.  Especially if you have a half-bake scholar coming up with funny generation names hundred of years ago.

For example, if your baby's generation name is Ng (Cantonese meaning No), then may god bless you.  A great name like Fatt (Cantonese meaning rich/prosper), when combined with Ng to become Ng Fatt, meaning you will not become rich.  You get the idea.

Luckily, my next generation has a fairly good middle name.  But as I scanned through the list, futher down the generations, it was not so desirable. 

For yiyi, it took us 3-4 months to find her name (before she was born of course).  A lot of research was done, we read books.  There were so many 'pantang larang' (do's and don't).  We have to make sure the middle name and the given name do not clash with each other.  We have to make sure the name sounds right in English, in Mandarin and in Cantonese (my family speaks Cantonese), and doesn't sound funny.  We have to make sure her name doesn't become a joke when she join school.  Like an ex-classmate of mine, we called her Meow Meow as her name is Meau Ling.  Having the thought that the name is going to be with her for her entire life adds pressure to us to ensure it is the right name.  But I guess we will never know...

And yes, the dos and don'ts.  The chinese name can be categorised into Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth.  Characters that clash with each other cannot be used as names.  For example, a character of Wood cannot be combined with a character with Fire.  And all that shit.  And to make things more complicated, the chinese characters are further divided into odd number of strokes or even number of strokes when writing the character.  We have to ensure the combination is favourable.  If a family name is even, the middle name is odd and the given name is even, then it is favourable.  Even, Even, Even, OK.  Odd, Even, Odd, no good.

We came up with her given name first, Yi.  Yi as in Yi Tai, Cantonese meaning manner or bearing.  It normally reflect the manner how one carry oneself.  I kinda like yiyi.  Then we find a middle name to match her given name.  Zhi, mainly used in names, is a type of flower.  So her name Zhi Yi, the same pronounciation with the Zhang Zi Yi (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), but different chinese characters.  For her english translation, we chose the Han Yi Pin Yin, a standard way of representing Chinese pronounciation in English. 

And we are glad we named her Zhi Yi.