How to choose an English name

Mom Baby: Pregnancy for November, 2006.
Last month's cover of Mom Baby: Pregnancy (孕味·妈妈宝宝) magazine caught your correspondent's eye. Specifically, the cover teaser for "Give Baby a Western name."

Surprisingly, the advice given in the article is fairly decent. Pregnancy consulted an English language instructor, who came up with five principles governing name selection. Two of the rules concern meaning - a name could describe your baby's personality, or represent some ideal quality that you hope your child will achieve later in life - and the magazine helpfully provides a glossary of common boys' and girls' names.

The waters are more treacherous when it comes to connecting an English name to a Chinese name, but the magazine navigates them with ease. It suggests choosing an English name whose first letter the same as that in the Chinese pinyin of baby's name, or whose pronunciation is similar to baby's Chinese name (as in 翠苹 = Tracy or 佩琪 = Peggy), or, if possible, translating directly (茉莉 = Jasmine). The language expert recommends not looking at the Chinese rendering of an English name; the surface meaning of the phonetic representation may be misleading, and the Chinese pronunciation may be quite a ways away from the English.

The fifth option is to select a cute, cartoon-inspired name like "Snoopy" or "Yoyo." Thankfully, the magazine advises against this practice, arguing that such names won't look so hot when inscribed on an office nameplate at some future date - why not take the time to choose something more orthodox in the first place, it suggests. Are we looking at a future where people's English names will no longer be a way for them to express their creativity?

Perhaps, though the article runs into trouble when it mentions a few strategies for generating a name by yourself:

· For a two-syllable name, use consonant + vowel + consonant;
· For a three-syllable name, use vowel + consonant + vowel;
· Make changes to already-existing names. For example, if you think "Jean" is a bit too masculine, add "-na" to make it "Jeanna", or add "-isa" to make it "Jeanisa".

For the curious, the "beautiful, self-confident pregnant mommy" on the cover is Yang Jiahua (English name "Emma"). She chose the quite sensible English name "Ashley" for her daughter.

The magazine notes that some of its articles are drawn from the Taiwan edition of Mom Baby. But comparing this image from the current issue to the cover model from three years ago might lead one to wonder how often the magazine recycles its own articles. The fact that the free gift this month is a remaindered translation of a wellness text from 2001 does not provide much comfort.

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There are currently 6 Comments for How to choose an English name.

Comments on How to choose an English name

As far as the naming goes, I think that the HK, Singapore, Malaysian Ethnic Chinese that I have met were given names by their parents, or if they're in the over 40 group it was either self-chosen, parent given, teacher assigned, or in some cases by clergy.

To make it fair to kids (and I have 4) you really let them choose what they are called by. If James Nxxxxx wants to be called Jay (and have it on his business card) then so be it.
This gives people their own chance to express their creativity, but still keeps with the "somewhat" older tradition of the child's birthname coming from the parents. After being tugged, pushed, and threatened (silently) by in-laws to name the poor child.

Kind of funny.

I usually recommend the site below for Chinese people who are thinking of choosing/changing a name. At least you can see if you name is old-fashioned or going out of vogue, or whatever.

Have been living in UK for a few years, I totally abandoned my 'English Name' - in fact it was picked up and circulated by my old boss when in my first job, I never intended to use it. As you can imagine it just confusing because your English name is more of a nick than an official name you use in email, bank acc, postal correspondent etc.
I did receive lots of wondering, why you called yourself ‘XXXX’. So I gave it up for the inconvenience. The reverse course to get people using my ‘real name’ is kind of embarrassed.
One of the reasons many Chinese would get an ‘English name’, partly learnt from Hong Kong office worker, to make it convenient for they foreign peers. Other reasons maybe it is ‘trendy’. The only pragmatic reason I can think of is because Chinese language got 4 rhythms in every characters. Pin Yin (Rhythm with each alphabetic word) could map to lots of different Chinese words. It is difficult to figure out a Chinese name by just Pin Yin.
Now I am happily live with my Chinese name – spell in Pin Yin. I leave the difficult pronunciation problem to my colleagues, agents knowing there will be only me around. (I did search Amazon wish list on my first name only).

As a man ,I need a good English name,because I want to make lots of foreign friends and go travel to different countries!thaks!

I'm from Myanmar and I want an English name because I have to learn in foriegn country. I want my foreigner friends call me easily.

@Jingye i humbly suggest that you use the english name 'Seaman'

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