Wednesday, February 02, 2005

What's in a name

My Chinese name is 佳宝 'Jiabao'. That is 1st tone 'Jia' and 3rd tone 'Bao'. I try to explain a little what that means in Chinese and how people interpret it when I say it.
The first character:
佳 [jiā] good, beautiful
From 亻(人 rén) 'person' and 圭 guī phonetic.
The left part in this character is supposed to give you the meaning. Unfortunatley it would be rather hard to guess. I would never guess the meaning from this clue. Add to that that there are numerous character with this part with a whole range of meanings. Basically it becomes a very useless clue to remember the meaning. The right part is supposed to give you the pronunciation of the character. This configuration is pretty common, but it rarely gives you more than a qualified guess, and never the necessary tone of the character. For a dialect I suppose it should have even less use.
Some examples with 佳:
佳话 jiāhuà n. charming/much-told tale
最佳 zuìjiā adj. ①〈phy.〉 optimum ②〈wr.〉 best; first-rate
报佳音 bào jiāyīn vo. carol
才子佳人 cáizǐ-jiārén np. gifted scholars and beautiful ladies (in Ch. romances)
On to my second character:
宝 [bǎo] treasure
From 宀 (mián) 'roof' over 玉 (yù) 'jade'. Treasure stored in a house.
The full traditional form 寶 also contains 缶 (fǒu) 'jar' and 貝 (bèi) 'money'.
Everybody knows the character for jade 玉 and put under a roof it makes some sort of sense. This is a good one! Wish more characters were like that.

Some examples using 宝:
宝贝 bǎobèi n. ①treasured object; treasure ②darling; baby ③cowry ④good-for-nothing; odd character ◆v. treasure ◆adj. treasured
宝贵 bǎoguì adj. valuable; precious ◆v. value; set store by
宝剑 bǎojiàn n. precious sword
宝石 bǎoshí* n. precious stone; gem
(I've used the Wenlin software for the translations)

When Chinese people hear it they usually think it is pretty funny. Usually they make a reference to 温家宝 WēnJiāBǎo, the Chinese Premier, since without his surname his name is pronounced the same as mine.

I think my name is sounds gullible and super-sweet. Perhaps a nickname for a baby or something. I believe it will be recognised as being a name of a foreigner. Since I'm a foreigner and only use it as a nickname, that's alright with me.

And... then there is a company with my name. Using the same characters too. The JiaBao candy and dried fruit company! Here you can see their mango product! In stores all over China.
Jiabao Mango

Why 'Jiaboa' then? It is derived from how Chinese would translate my nickname 'Garbo'.

I'm thinking of changing the character to 家宝, meaning 'family treasure'. Since I'm the only son and having five sisters, I think that name could be quite suitable. Especially from a Chinese point of view. Don't you agree my dear (less valuable) sisters? Grin ;)


find Johanna said...

What ever you say, dear brother. GRrrrr.

Johan said...

I know you must be a little upset that you had to inherent all the dolls, clothes, shoes, bikes from your older sisters while I always got new stuff.


Just kiddin' ;)

Johan said...

Oh. I didn't get any dolls. I got LEGO and a computer. And while you guys got pink and red, I got blue and brown. Who claimed that Sweden was a gender equal country?

Then again, people back home usually don't express pity to our parents just because they got so many daughters.

I love Beijing said...

It is a cute name for a little boy. A very suitable name espeically for a Chinese boy whom was born in 60's / early 70's before the one-child policy. :)Very easy to remember though

Garbo Yau said...

Hi there!
I'm Chinese and I live in the UK and I speak Cantonese.

My name is Garbo =D
Mandarin Jia Bao, Cantonese Ga Bo.
And it's written in the way that if it was translated directly it would be 'family treasure'. I love telling people what my name means and I'm the only daughter with a step brother and sister.

That was quite an interesting piece I just read there ^_^ Just wanted to comment!

Johan said...

Cool! I guess you are the one who register all the web sites with garbo.. so i have to use another sign-in...

Anyway.. I actually gave up on the 佳宝, just too cute and girly to be me. Suits you fine though! I checked out your pics. ;)

Honey Bee said...
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Honey Bee said...
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