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I live in the US but have friends I see in China, some of whom have one-character given names (that is "first" name in English usage, "second" name in Chinese usage). I know that often people avoid using a one-character given name by itself since it lacks weight, as said by monalisa at How should a professor address a woman student?. So where a close friend might call 曾國藩 just 國藩, an equally close friend would call 张扬 by the full name.

But it seems that sometimes in conversations and in e-mails, Chinese people do call a friend by a one-character given name. Am I mistaken to believe that? Or is it just because the people I know have mostly worked and studied some in the west and they often use English in their work? Or is it something that only very close friends would do?

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For one character given name, I won't write only his/her given name in a letter in Chinese unless we are in a relationship. But in English, that is very normal.

Also I have several very close friends whose given names are one character. But I won't call them given name in Chinese. On the contrary, if I mention him/her in English, I will use his/her given name directly.

And one thing I can tell you, I have two character given name. In China, only my parents or my elder female relatives will call me my given name. My close friends call me nickname.

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You can duplicate that character (if you are really familiar to him/her). Even you can do that the same with three-char names. For example, 曾國藩, you can just call her 藩藩. You can find it if one's name have a char that pronounces the 1st, 2nd or 4nd tone, you can do duplication. For example, 张扬: 扬扬.

Note 1: Some pronunciation should be changed, otherwise it will be weird for locals:

2nd tone: The second char should pronounce as the 4th tone.

3rd tone: Won't be used in general.

4th tone: The second char should pronounce as a lower tone than the first one.

Note 2: Some Pinyin combination won't be used to duplicate.

3rd tone: Won't be used in general.

Note 3: Never be confused with the meaning of the duplicated word, you will never write them onto the formal papers right? or, you can find for some char with positive meanings to replace them.

Maybe you should ask to your friends first, they may be interested in it, LOL.

  • I do talk with my friends about their names sometimes, and of course I know how they address each other and how they sign e-mails. I do not often ask them for general advice about language since that is not their field. – Colin McLarty Apr 10 '15 at 14:08

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