Thursday, December 04, 2014

Namesakes


This past week I came across an article about the most popular baby names of 2014. I was relieved to see that William did not make the top ten, as it did on the US list in 2013 (when it came in at No. 5). I never intended to name my kid a trendy name. I pitied all the Adams I knew growing up. In 5th grade there were four of them in my class of 25 students and we had to identify them by the first initial of their last name. I've never had that problem. I am the only Rosie most people know.

My Grandpa Gerald holding me
I was hoping to come up with a name someone like my own. I've really come to embrace my name as I've gotten older. As a child, it wasn't ideal as I had to deal with endless rhyming (Nosy Rosie; Rosie Posie) and nicknames (Roseanne was the end of me). Now that the name-calling has ceased, I like having an uncommon name. In fact, I've never come across a Rosalie who wasn't elderly or a Rosie that was a retriever (I guess it's a cute pet name). Though not popular, most people can pronounce it and I don't get a confused look when I introduce myself. That's what I wanted for my child.

Then I found out I was having a boy. For a girl, it was easy. I had a million names I loved, but settled on Athena and Ming liked the meaning behind it. For her Chinese name, Ming would have her named by a Buddhist monk, as he had done with Ping. But for a boy, I wasn't sure, as nothing stood out. So I took the sentimental route.

Grandpa during WW2
For a middle name, I went with a good, solid German name—Gerald. Actually, while I like that this name ties William to his German roots, I picked it because it was my grandpa's name. My grandfather and I were very close growing up. He passed away in 2008.

My dad lost his beloved younger brother, Billy, in a motorcycle accident when they were just out of high school. When I brought up the name William as an option for a first name, Ming asked what it translated to in Chinese. I told him the transliteration (Wēilián), to which he smiled and quickly agreed, “Yes! Let's name him after a prince!” We also decided, much to my relief, to give him the Chinese name of Wēilián, instead playing Name Russian Roulette and have him named by a random monk. Double win!

While his English name is certainly common, his Chinese name is not. Wēilián is not something a Chinese person would normally, if ever, pick. However, the characters of his name aren't odd and I like the meaning behind each of them. Wēi () meaning “power” or “prestige,” and lián () meaning “honest and clean” (it also means “cheap” which I generally prefer to gloss over). Wēilián is the name that appears on William's hukou (Chinese household registry) and Chinese passport. On his birth certificate, the hospital agreed to print his English name, William Gerald. When we get him an American passport, most likely next spring, he will officially be William Gerald in the eyes of Uncle Sam.

What about you? Does your name have any special meaning? Do you have a name in more than one language?

2 comments:

martalivesinchina said...

I have a shitty Chinese name that sounds very similar to a popular Tianjin snack, haha. I'm too lazy to change it (plus, I think coming up with a good name is really difficult).

rosieinbj said...

@Marta, my Chinese name isn't that great either as it is basically a transliteration of my English name. I usually go by 莎莉 which doesn't have any meaning. Oh well.