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I am trying to find a new Chinese name for myself. Before, I simply used a transliteration of my western name. Now, as my Chinese progressed, I would like to find something that does not immediately reveal that I am a foreigner. While leafing through my dictionaries, several rare characters attracted my attention. I like them, not only because they are exotic, but also because of their meanings and their components.

But I am not sure if they may be used for names. I tried to baidu that question, but they seem to be to rare... I think my question is twofold: First, do native speakers use rare characters for names? And, specifically concerning the character 飂:

  • Could I use a character like 飂 for my name?
  • would a native speaker use a rare character like 飂 as name?
  • what does a native speaker think seeing a name containing such a character? Is it simply rare? Or really strange?

From what the dictionaries (mainly Longman and the dictionary of the Taiwanese ministry of education) told me, 飂 is used as 姓 (although I could not find any examples), and can mean either the sound of wind, wind in high places, or a west wind (what perhaps somehow fits to a westerner).

edit: I'm comfortable with reading Chinese sources when needed.

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please comment on our answers to let us know which part of the answer/question you haven't been clear yet :) –  Stan May 31 '13 at 16:50
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This reminds me of a 郑渊洁 short story about a father who named his son using very complex characters, in order to look sophisticated. What happens instead is that no one can pronounce it, everyone elected to mispronounce it using a very unflattering version, ruining the son's fortunes from dates to interviews, so in exasperation the son changes his name later in life. –  congusbongus Jun 4 '13 at 3:04
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6 Answers 6

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Q1: Could I use a character like 飂 for my name?

Yes. In fact, you can freely choose any character for your name. However, for whether it is a good Chinese name, there may be many criteria. The most important criteria are supposed to be:

  • Elegant meaning. is a good one, meaning gone with the wind and implying a noble, unsullied, lofty, and proud character of a person. One derivation of this character is in 道德經

    澹兮其若海,
    飂兮若無止,
    衆人皆有以,
    而我獨頑似鄙。

    Well, I'm not good at writing English poem ... the translation below is just a simple explanation line by line for the piece of 道德經 above:

    Being indifferent to fame and wealth, as floating on the sea;
    Being gone with the wind, as never heading for an end that can be seen.
    Everyone is too busy, for their own living;
    But just stubborn as me, keeping such an attitude like this!

    I guess you can feel the feeling of 飂 now :)

  • Good and easy pronunciation. It depends on character combinations so I can't tell whether a name containing 飂 (liù or liáo) sounds good or not. But it's really a rare character so that most people would have to look up a dictionary before calling your name; and being even worse, 飂 has two kinds of pronunciation -- people would be confused for which one is your preference. This is unlike a Japanese name. As a character would have many sounds in Japanese, they often write down the phonetic symbol, i.e. Hiragana or Katakana, for each name that is intended to be read out in documents. Thus, in conclusion, although polyphonic characters are even sometimes (in fact not often) used by native Chinese speakers for their names, I don't recommend to use them.

Other criteria, like some superstitious rules (e.g. 姓名學), won't be introduced here. If you are interested in them, you can see the link for more information.

Q2: Would a native speaker use a rare character like 飂 as name?

Yes. But it will be probably considered as you are showing off.

Q3: What does a native speaker think seeing a name containing such a character? Is it simply rare? Or really strange?

Whether it is strange depends on character combinations. That is to say, only when seeing a full name, one can answer such a question :)

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Besides, it can help start a conversation. :-) –  Mike Manilone May 31 '13 at 14:13
    
@MikeManilone: especially when OP meets a Chinese :p –  Stan May 31 '13 at 16:30
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I would also consider the number of strokes. My Chinese contains a total of 46 strokes and is a pain to write on every single piece of paper I hand in. :) 飂 is a good start to get a name with even more strokes. –  Olle Linge Jun 1 '13 at 3:41
    
@OlleLinge: I think maybe it's time to learn 行草 now. Then you can probably write your name within at most 5 strokes. It's not necessary to use 正楷 everywhere -- I would admit sometimes I can hardly identify a native Chinese's signature -- but that's just OK. Signature is just a "symbol" for your name. –  Stan Jun 1 '13 at 4:28
    
Thank you for your answer and sorry for my late response. I know that I have to combine the characters in a way that they sound good, but it did not occur to me that a polyphonic character might cause problems, thanks for that perspective. As for Q3, I meant the feeling when seeing the single character, I think your answer for Q2 answers this as well :). As you mention strange combinations, could you give me an example of what would be considered as one? Is it something that I as a westerner would easily realize myself, like for example an illogical combination of meanings? –  Lukas Jun 2 '13 at 14:29
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You may use it, but you will be the uncalled one when the teacher makes a roll call. Because he will be confused about how to pronounce this character.

In China, although characters are complicated, the basic elements you need to communicate are few, especially compared with hard-to-pronounce complex traditional characters.

It may sound like someone named "the-wind-go-so-fast-and-ferocious". Some parents will do, they pick a child's name in the dictionary, or by consulting a feng shui master, who'll determine which characters should be used in their child's name based on the birth date.

When people want to be specialized, they will also do the same, but anyway, in most cases, you will be regarded as one who has parents with smell of inkhorn. [???]

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does this smell of inkhorn phrase have to do with being erudite/educated? As in 墨客? –  tao Jul 9 '13 at 4:01
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Yes and no.

Yes, you can use it as long as it is a real Chinese character.

However, as a native Chinese with a rare character in my own name, it bothers me in life in various ways. First, some people don't know how to pronounce it. Second, some banks and airplane companies still limit their database of Chinese character to GB2312 which includes only about 7 thousand Chinese characters. Third, rare characters are usually hard to write and also hard to input in computers.

But since you won't use this Chinese name in passports or so, I guess it's not a problem after all.

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You'd better not use such a rare character. I have '煦' in my name, which is much more common than your '飂', and it still bothers me for even some of my teachers don't know how to pronounce it.

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My friend is named 仇煦婷. She has this problem too :( "oh hey, chou zhaoting, what's up?" –  Stumpy Joe Pete Jun 4 '13 at 3:18
    
@StumpyJoePete: 和煦 should be a common word. I've checked the Chinese textbooks adopted in many primary schools of mainland China, and find a text titled 孔子游春 using the phrase 和煦的轻风 within. Maybe it's because this word is literary, we forget how to pronounce it :( –  Stan Jun 4 '13 at 4:00
    
@Stan I think it's because it looks similar to other, more common characters (e.g., 照 and 熙). –  Stumpy Joe Pete Jun 4 '13 at 4:14
    
@StumpyJoePete: Oh, that's the mistake non-native speakers would make, I mean, pronouncing zhào for 煦. In fact 照, 熙 and 煦 are all phono-semantic compound characters, native speakers would know 照 is pronounced like 召, and similarly, 熙 like 巳, 煦 like 句 -- that's some kind of language intuition. BTW, should be pronounced as qiú球 when it's used as a surname in formal Mandarin Chinese :) –  Stan Jun 4 '13 at 4:54
    
@StumpyJoePete: I said in formal Mandarin Chinese -- I mean, Ms. Qiu might even make mistake for the pronunciation of her surname. This would happen. Many people think is a simplified character for (enemy), but in fact it's not. In ancient China, 仇 is only pronounced as qiú and 讎 is only pronounced as chóu. As 仇 is simple, it's much more popular in modern Chinese, and then has a modern pronunciation chóu. –  Stan Jun 4 '13 at 5:15
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yes, it's your freedom, but not recommended, not many people know how to read it and what's it means

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In my opinion, our name is used as our mark to identify. If your name owns a rare character, it makes others (friends around you) hardly recognize and called. The simple things just goes unfriendly. Although, I admit it is a cool idea, but not easy to me.

Of course, you can try your best to figure it out -- a perfect name using other easy-read words.

BTW, as a newly father, the name-thing almost killed me. (一航 is my final decision for my boy )

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