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According to 新华字典, 姆 means 保姆,负责照管儿童或料理家务的女工 (P353,新华字典第11版,商务印书馆,2011年6月).

But in many names of males in translated works, either in literary works or news stories, this word is used, for example, 吉姆, 蒂姆, 汤姆, 欧姆, 姆巴佩, 克里姆, 姆努钦 and so on.

Why is so?

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When choosing a character for transliteration, we first pick the character that sounds most similar to the English word, the meaning of the character is irrelevant, Notice, '姆' and '母'(mother) have the same pinyin /mǔ/, picking 姆 makes more sense because it is a less commonly used character, thus sounds more foreign, not to mention 母 means mother would be worse in a man's name, at lease we have 男保姆

Similar case:

The character 菲 is often used in female names, but we use the character for transliteration of 菲比斯 (Michael Fred Phelps) and no one would question why not use 非 (not) instead.

Side note: Before President Richard Nixon (尼克松) became friendly to China, they transliterated his name as "尼黑虫" not caring about 黑虫 meaning " black worm"

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  • Interesting. But about 男保姆, I haven't seen or heard of one. About the foreign sound, there is an example 大卫贝克汉姆 whose original is David Beckham and whose translation should be 贝克哈姆 because 汉 is a very common word and implies the meaning of China. 木or 穆 could also be an option. Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 3:47
  • 木 and 穆 has a k sound at the end if it were pronounced in other dialects. 姆 sounds more neutral with no consonants filling the end of the syllable. Also, I've never seen 姆 in Beckham's transliteration before, usually it's just 貝克漢 and 姆 is unneeded because the N and M ending sounds almost alike.
    – Fishuman
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 16:01
  • @Fishuman Perhaps you have never stayed in the real Chinese (Mandarin) world, aka the communist China, where 贝克汉姆 is the usual spelling for the name of the former English footballer, whose other name in Hong Kong Cantonese is 碧咸. Commented Sep 29, 2023 at 2:18

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