Feature: Quest for perfect children's names sees Vietnamese pick Chinese-based words
Source: Xinhua
Time: 2016-Mar-17 08:52

By Tao Jun, Dong Hua


HO CHI MINH CITY, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Most Vietnamese couples spend days, even months, and dozens of U.S. dollars to acquire a meaningful name to give to their child, and most names deemed the best are of Chinese and Vietnamese origin.


Chinese-Vietnamese words are elements in the indigenous language that are derived from Chinese. For example, the Chinese characters for "Yellow Dragon" are pronounced and written as "Huang Long" in Latin, but "Hoang Long" in Vietnamese. Likewise, the Chinese characters for "Pink Cloud" are pronounced and written as "Hong Yun" in Latin, but "Hong Van" in Vietnamese.


Many Vietnamese people consider such Chinese-Vietnamese words such as "Hoang Long" and "Hong Van" to be more solemn, more beautiful and more compact than the native Vietnamese words with the same meaning. In this case, "Rong Vang" and "Dam May Mau Hong," respectively, and as such they often opt for Chinese-Vietnamese words when naming their children.


"Many relatives and friends of mine have asked for my recommendations for beautiful, meaningful Chinese-Vietnamese words to name their newborn babies, because they do not know Chinese, but believe that such Chinese-based names are more impressive," Nguyen Thuy Chi, assistant to the director of China's Taiwan-backed motorbike maker SYM Vietnam, told Xinhua.


She said her middle and last name "Thuy Chi" are Chinese-Vietnamese words which have some good meanings, including "Supple Bough," and that a number of famous singers and actresses are named "Thuy Chi" or choose "Thuy Chi" as their stage names.


Names in Vietnam are laden with meaning, and many parents think that a child's name plays a part in their destiny. "When asking for my suggestions, they often list the name's good meaning as their top priority, followed by tonal sounds," Thuy Chi, reluctantly dubbed a "nameologist," said smiling. Parents often believe that names with no tonal inflection will provide their children with a smooth and untroubled life, she explained.


Over the past 10 years, the "nameologist" has recommended Chinese-based names to hundreds of people, including feminine names for girls and masculine ones for boys.


"For boys' names, I often suggest Son Tung (Shan Song in Chinese, meaning "Pine-tree on the mountain", Hoang Long (Yellow Dragon), Kim Long (Gold Dragon), Dong Phong (Wind from the East), Ngoc Son (Gem Mountain), Thanh Lam (Green Forest). Popular girls' names include Minh Chau (Bright pearl), Ngoc Diep (Gem Leaf), Minh Nguyet (Bright moon), Huong Giang (Fragrant River), Hong Ngoc (Ruby), Hong Van (Pink Cloud) and Thanh Tam (Green Heart)," said Thuy Chi.


Another local "nameologist," a retired man who calls himself "Mr Thang" (also a Chinese-Vietnamese word meaning "Win" or "Victory," said that many parents have asked for his free or paid suggestions for their babies' names, because they think a name accompanies a person for their entire life and impacts their future.


"I have replied to more than 5,000 requests made through my website. All are free. If people need my specific advice within 24 hours through emails, the fee is 300,000 Vietnamese dong (13.3 U.S. dollars). Besides this, I can provide direct consultations at my office in Ho Chi Minh City's District 1 costing 500,000 Vietnamese dong (22.2 U.S. dollars)," the veteran said.


According to Thang, more and more well-off parents, especially businesspeople, have asked for suggestions of good names which are not only meaningful and easy to write and say, but also thought to bring about good luck, prosperity and longevity according to Yin-Yang, Five Elements and Feng Shui Chinese philosophies.


"My wife will give birth next month. The fortune-teller I have recently consulted with said that our baby will be born in the year of monkey (2016), so the baby's destiny is fire. He recommended some names which are related to trees and forests, such as Tung (Pine-tree) and Lam (Forest), explaining that wood supports fire," Nguyen Van Hung, vice director of Dai Phat Trading Company in southern Binh Duong province, told Xinhua recently. The name "Hung" means "Bear," and "Dai Phat" means "Grow Very Rich," he added, regarding his own designation.


"The fortune-teller also told me over and over again that I must not choose names that are related to water, including Hai (Sea), Giang (River) and Thuy (Water), because water puts out fire," Hung continued.


Many decades ago, names in Vietnam were often tied up with long-standing superstitions. Many parents gave their kids "ugly" names with a strong belief that spirits or ghosts would leave their children alone and and not haunt them, or make them sick and die young.


In the past, names such as Chot (One-eyed), Que (Crippled), Him (Vulva) and To (Simpleton) were not rare. More common names were based on the Chinese astrological year of people's birth, including Ty (Mouse), Suu (Buffalo), Dan (Tiger) and Mao (Cat).


Nowadays, however, people prefer positive names which are meaningful and fairly short, often one or two words, but, there are some exceptions.


A man born in 1992 in Ho Chi Minh City's Nha Be District called Le Hoang Hieu Nghia De Nhat Thuong Tam Nhan is considered to have the longest full name in Vietnam in terms with 35 letters. A draft of Vietnam's revised Civil Code stipulated that full names of a Vietnamese citizen must not exceed 25 letters, but this proposed regulation was removed in August 2015.


Meanwhile, some Vietnamese parents have opted for foreign languages, especially English, when naming their children. In the southern province of Dong Thap, a local man was named Nguyen Thanh Spring, while a local woman is called Nguyen Phuong Vivian.


Regarding foreign languages, some Chinese-Vietnamese words produce good names, but have negative meanings in English. "Many girls are named Loan (Female Phoenix) or My Dung (Beautiful Countenance), but I have never suggested such names to my relatives or friends," the reluctant "nameologist" Thuy Chi, who has a good command of both Chinese and English, said softly, giggling.

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