Deciding my baby girl’s Teochew name

As a personal revelation, the best way to arrive at a Teochew name is to ask your elders what common Teochew names they remember, be they the names of their relatives or friends.

To understand this point better, we can ask ourselves what common Mandarin names there are. To list some of them:

  • 俊伟 (Jun Wei or Choon Wei)
  • 伟俊 (Wei Jun or Wei Choon)
  • 小明 (Xiao Ming or ah Beng)
  • 美丽 (Mei Li or Bee Lay)
  • 丽君 (Li Jun or Lee Koon)
  • 淑惠 (Shu Hui or Soh Hui)
  • and the list goes on

These are my friends’ names and we are all between the ages of 30-35 years old. This means that many of our names were chosen when dialects were dominant albeit transitioning into a Mandarin landscape. In other words, these are Teochew, Hokkien, Hainanese, Cantonese, Hakka names.

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On the other hand, they are equally legit Mandarin names as my friends can fall back to these same Chinese characters for our children.

It follows that perhaps the search for a Teochew or dialect name really refers to a search for a unique name for our darlings, as we can see that the names above are indeed “normal” and underwhelming. They are common what.

To the end of arriving at a special name, scouring a Chinese dictionary would be very useful.

Add Caucasian civil servants in the first half of the 20th century finding the correct spellings for unspellable dialect pronunciation and intonation to the problem. Then add the increase of non-English locals with limited measure of English proficiency being drafted into the hospitals and registration departments and the country gets swept into a tsunami of name spelling problems.

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