What's In a Name?

In the course of a couple’s journey through pregnancy, the subject of choosing a name for your baby will come up in the course of one’s conversations with his or her partner, as well as with relatives and friends. The question, “Have you chosen a name for your baby?” has come up enough times for us to properly set down more or less what we’ve decided whether it be a boy or a girl.

But we’ve also gone through a list of names that will ensure our unpopularity as parents to our teenage-angst-ridden-child-of-about-10-years-later. The following names deserves a disclaimer, as some of these names poke fun at the culture of the Singapore language, so if you’re a foreigner who hasn’t seen the local heartland activity before, or a English-ed who is hopeless at Mandarin, much less Hokkien catchphrases, excuse my indulgences. I also ask my unborn child to please forgive me if we do end up giving you one of the names I am about to mention.

Before we even got married, my wife and I were toying with names for our child already (as most people in a serious relationship will no doubt have partaken in at some point in their lives together). Being a Tay (or ? Zheng4), I, too, have had my fair share of nicknames which I found to be quite entertaining should my child adopt them. For example:

  • ?? for a boy (while considered a very fancy Chinese name for its use of two characters instead of the standard three, when translated in local dialect will become “Tay Peng”, or as Singaporeans so affectionately call iced milk tea in hawker centres and kopitiams)
  • ?? for a girl (its phonetic meaning “zheng4 dian3” being the Chinese hooligan slang for “chio bu“, or “phwah, pretty girl leh”)
  • Aaliyah Tay (in commemorating the late R&B singer as well as our very popular ginger milk tea, Teh Aliah, available at all good kopitiams)
  • Elizabeth Tay Lor (this one came up last night at bedtime when I was feeling particularly corny, made my wife shake in silent laughter for a good 15 minutes)
  • and of course, the phonetic equivalents of more serious Chinese phrases such as ?? (zheng4 zhi4, or politics), ?? (justice), ?? (authentic), ?? (get a grip, like, you know, “get a grip, man”), etc.

In all earnest, the both of us do try our best to choose the most plausible Chinese characters (i.e. actual names we could use) despite their very misguided double meanings. When we more or less settled on Xander or Xandra for our child’s name (derived from Alexander, for those that think it’s soooo original), and as I am writing this, I suddenly find ?? (justice) quite suitable as a Chinese follow-on for its simple strokes and resemblance to the English counterpart’s initial.

But it isn’t as simple as aesthetics and meanings in choosing a name. Under very strict fengshui and numerological standards, both the English and Chinese names cannot be taken as is until the child is born and his or her 8 characters (time and date of birth) are attained. From there we will need to calculate the numerical sum of all the English letters (each letter in the name represented by its numerical position in the alphabet, added together and then added again to the 8 numbers of the time and date of birth). Thus in today’s Asian society, names with added or replacement consonants and vowels are gaining popularity, like Allenn instead of Alan, or Richardd instead of Dick, or Gollumm instead of My Precious, or, for the more superstitious Catholic, Archiballd Bryern Goh Ann Daie.

For Chinese characters it’s even worse. Based on your 8 characters, you need to count the total number of strokes used in your Chinese name, and couple with that, you need to choose Chinese words that compensate for your lack of certain elements (as in mine, where I lack the water element in my birthtime, so my name is ?? for the 3 “spots of water” in both characters). Name-choosing has become such an intricate art, it has become a lucrative business that charges people 3- to 4-digit figures for a 45-minute sitdown with a Chinese almanac, numerology textbooks, calculator, Chinese dictionary and a lawyer for your deed poll if you are unfortunate enough to need your name changed after you hit puberty.

If you still aren’t daunted by the sheer mind-boggling intricacies of choosing a name for your child, by all means, save the 500 bucks and do it yourself. Just read all the documentation carefully, and hope that the name you choose will not spell the fate of your child being called Lucky Cock, or Regina-Vagina, or

3 Replies to “What's In a Name?”

  1. As a serious (but still novice) student of Feng Shui, I found your description of the numerology and Feng Shui of choosing a baby’s name very interesting! I hope you’ll let us know the results of the name you end up choosing. It would be very interesting to see a most on the actual birth time calculations for your child at the time of arrival, and the numerology aspects of the name you do choose.

    Best regards,
    Margot, the Marrakesh Mystic
    margotmystic.wordpress.com

    halo:zero replies:

    Hi Margot,

    Thanks for writing. I’ll most definitely provide a more complete explanation of how this works as soon as I get my research straightened out.

  2. I wanted to sign up for your RSS feed, but see that you haven’t got it in your sidebar. It helps people sign up for your blog so that whenever you write something, they see your articles appearing on their main page with news or other blogs they follow.

    If you manage to do this, please reply here to this comment, and it will appear in my own blog comment replies, so I can get back here.

    The way to do it is: go to your Dashboard, go to Design. Then go to Widgets. Look in the left-hand column for “Meta,” click on “Add.” Then go to the bottom of the left column, and click on “Save Changes.” That will take care of it!

    Best regards,
    Margot, the Marrakesh Mystic
    margotmystic.wordpress.com

    halo:zero replies:

    Thanks for the tip! It’s been done already, but I’m still a noob at WordPress, and this is the free .com version, so I have no idea how to reply other than editing your comment and writing my replies below your comments. I’ll do better next time…

  3. It hard to fund a good name in different languages. I tried it, in the end in one language the name don’t have a meaning.

    halo:zero replies:

    A lot of people have problems getting the meaning right when their name concerns 2 languages.I’ve found some people just give priority to adding meaning to the name in their native language, and then try to complement it, or just choose an entirely unrelated name for the other. 2 meanings are always good; gives the kid double the conversation material when talking about his own name at a party.

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