Carmarthen (carmarthen) wrote in little_details,

Mandarin Chinese women's names and changing names (+ Chinese lipreading question)

Setting: I am writing a story set in the Firefly verse, which is a far-future space western setting positing a kind of US/China fusion becoming the dominant culture. The show itself doesn't do the best job of selling the fusion, and yes, the Mandarin on the show is mangled and they wouldn't speak modern Mandarin (or modern English...yet they pretty much do) 500 years from now, but that's beside the point for my question.

Search Attempts: I searched on "Chinese names" (some info on naming customs, not anything that answered my questions) "Chinese women's names" and so on. I also asked a friend of mine who is a fairly fluent Mandarin speaker, but she said "I don't know, you should ask a native speaker." Pretty much all of these questions are the kind that require a person to answer.


(I am using hanzi to avoid ambiguity)

1. At one point in the story the main character is trying to lipread someone saying the English name "Miranda," but she initially tries to make sense of it as Mandarin. My friend suggested 沒让打 (méi ràng dǎ) as a possible attempt (the character will quickly go "no, that doesn't really make much sense," and realize that the other person is not speaking Mandarin). Does this seem plausible?

ETA: In canon Miranda is the name of a planet. I'm not trying to transliterate it to make sense as a name in Chinese, but attempting to have the character initially try to make sense of it as a phrase in Chinese before realizing it's a name in English. This may not work, though.

2. Is it culturally plausible for a person making a huge life change (and perhaps taking on a new identity to some degree, including fleeing from the government) to alter how they write their name--not even the tone, but just the characters? Like, for example, from 珍 (zhēn; treasure) to 真 (zhēn; true, genuine, real)? I know that in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Toph's name is written as 拓芙 (tuò fú) by her parents and as 托夫 (tuō fū) when she is on her own, but of course this is an American cartoon set in a fantasy world, and it might even have been an error from the original plans for Toph to be a male character.

3. Are the following reasonably plausible women's names, or could be imagined as plausible in the far future?

李珊瑚 (lǐ shānhú)

徐珍 (xú zhēn)

徐真 (xú zhēn)

4. What would the women (who are friends/coworkers) call each other in casual conversation? Shanhu and Xu Zhen? Li Shanhu and Xu Zhen? Shanhu and Zhen? (And, out of curiosity: is it better for the reader to use tone marks in names or leave them off?)
Tags: ~languages: chinese, ~names

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