Chinese names

The Chinese versions of candidates’ names in some Massachusetts ballots apparently have some unfortunately comical or negative meanings, according to an article I came across today. For example, one candidate’s name could be translated as “Sticky Rice” or “Uncooked Rice”, another’s as “High Prominent Noble Educated” or “Stick Mosquito”.

I’m trying to work out what character were used for these names. Any ideas?

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This entry was posted in Chinese, Language, Translation.

6 Responses to Chinese names

  1. Benjamin says:

    After some research and syllable-guessing I worked out some characters (though my IME is currently not working :/ )

    Fred Thompson – tang1 xian2 (soup, virtue)
    Barack Obama – o1 ba? ma3 (oh, bus, horse)
    William Galvin – gao1 wen2 (high, mosquito)

    Those are more difficult…
    Mitt Romney – mi3 rom=?? -ney could be nian2 (rice, ??, sticky)
    Thomas Menino – man2 ni2 ?? (barbarian, mud, ??)
    other version: (man?) ni2 nong2 (??sun moon??, rainbow, farming)

    Not a too phonetic transcription, if you ask me. ;D

  2. Jeff says:

    this is the character version of the above entry, although I took the liberty of changing nianmi to nuomi, which sounds closer to Romney.

    Thompson汤贤
    Obama 阿巴马
    Galvin 高蚊
    Romney 糯米 nuo4 mi3
    Menino 蛮泥 ??

  3. Believe it or not, I actually saw this story on Hannity & Colmes last night, on Fox News Channel. They had gotten to the end of the show and they were goofing around by then. Unfortunately they didn’t have it posted to their website so I can’t get the video, but I remember Giuliani had a particularly unflattering translation of his name.

  4. epingchris says:

    I wonder why people would go and choose those funny characters for a name’s translation. A common pattern I’ve seen in translation of names is that it need not be phonetic but be good, or at least neutral, in meaning. Also, some characters are so often used in translation that we just don’t think of them as having any meanings even if they do. For example: 德 for “d”, 斯 for “s”, 爾 for “r/er”, 弗 for “f”, 特 for “t”, 克 for “k/ck”, 格 for “g”, 普 for “p”, 伯 for “b”, and 森 for “-son”.

    And translations in China and Taiwan often differ. Here are some possible translations in Taiwan:
    Fred Thompson: 弗雷德.湯普森 (fu2 lei2 de2 tang1 pu3 sen1)
    Mitt Romney: 米特.羅姆尼 (mi3 te4 luo2 mu3 ni2)
    Thomas Menino: 湯姆斯.曼寧諾 (tang1 mu3 si1 man4 ning2 nuo4)
    Barack Obama: 巴拉克.歐巴馬 (ba1 la1 ke4 ou1 ba1 ma3)
    William Galvin: 威廉.高爾文 (wei1 lian2 gao1 er3 wen2)

    Of course, these are not the only working ones, as I’ve seen many on the internet. That’s one of the problem with Chinese translation of people’s and places’ names.
    By the way, common translation of Giuliani in Taiwan is 朱利安尼 (zhu1 li4 an1 ni2).
    Actually I think to translate someone’s name with a bad-meaning or funny-meaning character would indicate that the translator doesn’t think too highly of the person.

  5. epingchris says:

    And if you really have to find a “meaning” for their name:

    Fred Thompson: 弗雷德.湯普森 (not, thunder, virtue, soup, common, forest)
    Mitt Romney: 米特.羅姆尼 (rice, special, net, thumb, ni??)
    Thomas Menino: 湯姆斯.曼寧諾 (soup, thumb, this, man??, serene, promise)
    Barack Obama: 巴拉克.歐巴馬 (ba??, pull, defeat, Europe, ba??, horse)
    William Galvin: 威廉.高爾文 (mighty, incorrupt, high, you, text)

    A lot of the meaning above are either obscure or obsolete. We rarely use 弗、羅、姆、尼、斯、曼、巴、爾 on its own anymore, and most of the characters only have distinct meaning when inside a word.

  6. arthur thompson says:

    “尼” this can mean nun. But originally meant a man sitting down. It was used as nun, because of its sound.