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roddy

Romanising 吕 as a surname

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roddy

Just had this raised in a translation I did. 

So 吕, correctly (although bear with me), is Lü. 

The umlaut is often too difficult, and so you end up with Lv (fair enough) or Lu (naughty)

 

What I wasn't aware of: around 2012, there was official advice to use Lyu (yes, Lyu) in certain scenarios 

 

I can see Lyu used in certain cases - a former ambassador to Spain, a couple of sportspeople. But still loads of Lü, Lv and Lu. I'm not inclined to regard Lyu as correct when it's possible to type Lü (or more likely, tediously copy and paste it as I never remember keyboard shortcuts), but would defer to any existing usage I can see for that particular personage.
 
And if people have Lyu on their passports, it's probably going to make their lives easier if it's Lyu in all other scenarios too...
 
Any thoughts / experiences?

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889

It looks to me like the rule is only for travel documents, and I'm pretty sure it has to do with an international standard that restricts the characters used on those documents. Note for example that German passports don't use umlauts either.

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Lu

Lv is a pet peeve of mine. The only people who understand how to even begin to pronounce that are people who would write 吕 anyway. I live in a country that uses tremas and umlauts anyway so I would always use Lü (I don't even need keyboard shortcuts for it! I just type " + u and there is it). If umlauts were impossible and it was an existing person, I'd ask the person what they wanted (even if that were Lv). If it was a fictional person or it was completely up to me, I'd prefer Lyu over other options. I've seen it here and there.

 

I used to work for a Dutch organisation in China. A Chinese colleague was surnamed 吕. Even though this was a Dutch organisation and everyone was completely comfortable with umlauts, she still spelled her surname Lv. It bugged me.

 

Germans don't just leave off the umlaut, they exchange it for an -e after the letter. Müller becomes Mueller, Köln becomes Koeln, etc. So they'd write Lue, which of course won't work for Chinese names because of pinyin rules. (I now wonder if there are people who started out as 吕, moved to Germany and became Lü, got German citizenship and became Lue in their passport.)

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889

But there's nothing new in German about changing Müller to Mueller. Happened to those 19th century Germans immigrating to America, for example, so the practice has been around for a long time.

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Dlezcano

I have never seen Lyu, only saw that surname with umlaut. I am Spanish and I just have found out that the ambassador's surname was written like that. It seems "official" since it also appears in the embassy's website, but on the other hand it could have been a personal choice of him.

I think Ly  doens't look bad either, I would write it like that rather than Lyu.

PS:I also found this interesting Zhihu thread.

https://www.zhihu.com/question/19625997

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Tomsima

If it's a choice based on pronunciation accuracy, surely Lyu would be read by non-Chinese speakers as 'Liu' and end up causing more confusion anyway? At least with an umlaut people know it's a 'Lu' that's said slightly differently. Struggling to get on board with 'Lyu' to be honest. Just a suggestion: what about 'Lw'?

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anonymoose
3 hours ago, Tomsima said:

what about 'Lw'?

 

How is that better than "Lv"?

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Tomsima

I made no comment on Lv, but I feel like any layman attempt at Lw would result in something closer to the intended sound (presumably something like 'lew' rather than 'liv'). At the same time it also shows its a family name distinct from Lu, Liu, Li etc. through the spelling.

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imron

I have friends whose surname is 吕 and their passports (at least as new as 2012) use Lv. 

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vellocet

I always thought that Lv was a terrible substitution for Lü.  It uses a Latin character to represent a sound that is alien to its usual pronunciation.  

 

You can say, "well that's the point of Pinyin, to use the Latin alphabet to represent the sounds of Chinese" and you'd be right. But nonetheless people are going to pronounce it "Liv" instead of Lü. Heck, most people can't say ü anyway so I don't know why I'm even writing this comment.  You know how long it was before I learned that the Y in  "ying" was purely decorative and put there only to make it look good? My pronunciation immediately improved that day. Pinyin is an awful system, but whatcha gonna do?  We have to write words like "邓小平" in Latin letters somehow. You can't put Bopomofo on the page and expect people to make sense of it.

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roddy

Did the Lv substitution perhaps only come about as that's how you got those characters in pinyin IMEs, and it was never 'meant' to be seen in writing. But then become mistakenly regarded as a romanisation option? Or does it predate pinyin IMEs?

 

If you're interested in two dots on top of vowels, you might like this, about the umlaut's cousin.

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Demonic_Duck

I'm gonna go ahead and defend the "-v" spelling here. It's definitely not ideal for most circumstances, but it has its place in contexts limited by technical or legal restrictions to only use certain characters. In such contexts, it allows for Pinyin to stay 100% ASCII compliant, assuming tone numbers are used rather than tone marks, and does so in a way that is concise and consistent (or at least as consistent as -ü already is). It also efficiently makes use of the only un-utilized ASCII alpha character. Better yet, it's very easy to convert between -v and -ü spellings - you just do a global find and replace for that one character (which you couldn't do with -yu).

 

Is it counter-intuitive to speakers of other languages that use the Latin alphabet? Sure. But so are Pinyin "x" and "q". Pinyin isn't English, nor Spanish, nor Vietnamese. It's Pinyin.

 

"But it's a consonant! You can't use consonant letters for vowel sounds!"

 

Pray tell, is the "y" in "myth" a consonant? What about the "w" in Welsh "cwm"? Or the "j" in Dutch "dijk"? Characters aren't intrinsically consonants or vowels any more than they have intrinsic pronunciations. How they're used and classified is by convention only. Conventions can be useful, but sometimes there are good reasons to reject them. To my mind, pinyin "-v" is one of those cases.

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Lu
1 hour ago, vellocet said:

Heck, most people can't say ü anyway so I don't know why I'm even writing this comment.

Most monolingual Americans can't say ü. Oh and Koreans. Many other people have no problem with it whatsoever.

 

@Demonic_Duck You make a good case. Something is to be said for consistency, ease of correcting, and the other things you mention. However, it seems to me that this looks mostly at the machine/computer side of things. People will be unable to pronounce Lv even close to correctly (in my experience, it usually ends up as 'el vee'), and Lyu is much easier on both the eye and the mouth. If computers have trouble with Lü, then perhaps something should change about the computers. Spelling people's names correctly is not rocket science and it is important, because if computers are not made to serve people, then what are they for?

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Demonic_Duck
20 minutes ago, Lu said:

If computers have trouble with Lü, then perhaps something should change about the computers.

 

In general I agree with this. ASCII-only computing is dying a slow and long-overdue death thanks to the ever-increasing adoption of Unicode.

 

However, I suspect the situation with passports in particular is less to do with what computers can process, and more to do with what human operators can easily type. Pretty much every keyboard the world over is set up to easily type ASCII characters, regardless of what other input methods are installed, whereas the same can't be said of ü (much less Ж, る, 𒀩, or 🕴️).

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vellocet
3 hours ago, Lu said:

Most monolingual Americans can't say ü.

A good old cheap shot at Americans. I don't know what else I expected. I used to think there was something wrong with having everyone speak the same language...until I came to China and discovered the horrible problems they have with the Tower of Babel style thousands of languages. Turns out, having a country the size of a continent all speak the same language is a tremendous advantage. Thus the spiteful jealousy.

 

4 hours ago, roddy said:

Did the Lv substitution perhaps only come about as that's how you got those characters in pinyin IMEs, and it was never 'meant' to be seen in writing. But then become mistakenly regarded as a romanisation option? Or does it predate pinyin IMEs?

That is a really, really good question and I think it has a good chance of being true.  Since one cannot type ü on a keyboard (I mean, I'm sorry, one of those stupid keyboards used by monolingual Americans) someone needed a way to input, and V was chosen.  People who grew up typing lv decided that's what it meant all along.  The document that could tell us is ISO 7098:1982, but as it has been superseded and removed from ISO.org, the question seems to be impossible to answer.  Maybe someone better than me can find it.  That, or the founding documents when pinyin was promulgated in 1958, but those are all in Chinese and beyond my ken.

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roddy

I don't know if this'll work, but lets send up the pinyin symbol... paging @Taibei

 

The early typography question is mildly interesting. Maybe they just got the new guy to put the dots on with a calligraphy brush.

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Lu

In my bilingual copy of the 三国演义, first edition 2000, my edition printed in 2010, this is still a problem. The ü's are in a different font.

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