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Is Bo Zilong a good Chinese name?


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Hi! This is my first post. I'm an American just starting to learn Mandarin.

A native Chinese woman I trust from Chongqing helped me create the name Bo Zilong. Using these Hanzi (Simplified) : 柏子龙

But since then, I have had several people tell me it sounded very strange and wrong. We were only speaking, so the Hanzi was never seen. What do you all think?

The rationale I was given for the name was that Bo zi sounds like my American name ( Boz ), which I started out by requesting. Bo is a common and respected Surname. While Zilong (Zi3 long2) is a common male given name, and long2 means dragon, which is a good thing, and I am a dragon on the Chinese zodiac. So all-in-all I thought she did a great job. I was very happy with it until people started saying it was strange. Three people seems to be a lot to say it's not right. I'm hoping that it's just a regional thing, I don't mind at all being associated with Chongqing, if it's just an issue of locale.

Should I believe HER? Or the three strangers that told me it was really weird. BTW, they were three different people in three different places (none were in Chongqing). There is no connection to them and I have no reason to believe they were just messing with me. In fact, if they were, I have badly misread Chinese culture.

I've also considered that I was just pronouncing it very badly. What do you think?

Xie Xie!


PS. I found out that Longwei was a common male name, so I've played around with Bozi Longwei, and Bo Zilongwei. Any thoughts on those? Is a 2 syllable last name, like Bozi, unheard of? Or a 3 syllable first name, like Zilongwei?

Also changing 柏子龙 to 薄子龙. Or 柏 to 薄.

PPS. It felt awkward using the word native above. Is there a better choice to indicate someone who was born and raised in China and lived their all their life?

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This is a surprisingly common complaint: non-native speaker A asks to be given a Chinese name, and native speaker B suggests one, telling them that it sounds cultured, refined, and elegant. Then A starts using the name and is promptly told by native speakers C, D, E, F, and G that the name is laughably bad. Just goes to show that the aesthetic appeal of names is very subjective.


In this case, it might be because [bó Zǐ] sounds a bit like 脖子 [bózi] (neck), in which case changing it to 薄 wouldn't help.


Note that 柏 has two readings: [bǎi] and [bó]. From what I can tell from various dictionaries, looks like mainland standard is that only [bǎi] is used for surnames, with [bó] being reserved for foreign proper nouns only (柏林、柏拉图), though [bó] is also listed as the literary reading of the character. In Taiwan, meanwhile, the standard is that all meanings and uses (including the surname) are pronounced [bó]. I used to live in a neighborhood that had this character in its name, and it was about a 50/50 mix of people pronouncing it either way, regardless of what any dictionary (or pinyin road sign) might prescribe.


PS. I found out that Longwei was a common male name, so I've played around with Bozi Longwei, and Bo Zilongwei. Any thoughts on those? Is a 2 syllable last name, like Bozi, unheard of? Or a 3 syllable first name, like Zilongwei?


Two-syllable surnames aren't unheard of (e.g. 欧阳、司徒), but there are only a small number in use (closed class), most of which are quite rare.


Three-syllable given names are unheard of except for ethnic minorities (i.e. transliterations of non-Chinese-language names).

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I dunno, it depends it you like it enough for people to comment on it all the time. I would abandon hopes of having a name that sounds significantly like your American name although yours is actually one of the better candidates, most English/non-Chinesenames sound awful/are meaningless once transliterated into Chinese. 


Anyway, I personally, I fall down on the side of getting a nice and reasonably interesting name that works from the standpoint of most native speakers. Of course you can never please everyone, but with at least two or at most three native speakers you should be able to come up with something. 


PS. I'm not sure if there's really a non-cluncky replacement for native, you could just drop it I suppose seeing as someone described as "Chinese" in this context will generally be assumed to be "native." Note my own use of the term "native speaker" which is pretty uncontroversial as far as I know.

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If you're talking about people you met outside China, then it might be necessary to indicate that they were born-and-bred in China. But in this case, "a Chinese woman I trust from Chongqing" should say it all.


Does Bo Xilai at all taint this name?

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I think 柏子龙 is a good name.


子龙 is a common enough name. Who doesn't know 赵子龙 after all. But because of the relatively simple syllable structure of the language, there are many homophones / near homophones. That could lead to misunderstanding, whether unintentional or intentional. It also doesn't help if your pronunciation isn't very good. 脖子+龙 conjures up a picture of brontosaurus. And although nobody wants to mess with a historical figure like Zhao Zilong, if you really try, you can say it sounds like 罩子(zhàozi, a hood, a cover)龙. It's childish. But people do childish things all the time, like talking about penis size on national television.


If you want to avoid this kind of punning, I suggest you change the second character 子 to something less punny, preferably with a third or fourth tone, for example 少龙, 盛龙, or 小龙 after Bruce Lee. As pointed out by others, two-syllable family names are rare, and Bozi is not one of them. In general, any name longer than three syllables sounds Japanese or foreign.


As for Bo Xilai, I won't be too surprised if some people in China view him favorably.

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Perhaps I shouldn't disagree with native speaker Publius, but I think calling yourself 小龙 is a bit arrogant. You (general you) are not Bruce Lee and never will be, so don't take his name. But others might disagree.


I don't think Chinese really do the 'tainted surname' thing, they would have run out of non-tainted surnames by now. I used to have a colleague who would even spell her own surname over the phone as 袁世凯的袁. So you can use 薄 without an issue, if you want (and even spell your name as 薄熙来的簿).


And personally I really like names that start with 子. 子龙, 子恩, 子云...

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@Lu: Yeah, you have a point. Though Chinese parents do name their kids 小龙 (I used to have a colleague with that name), it probably won't work that great if you're a foreigner. Could give off the wrong impression.


And you're quite right about the tainted family name thing.

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