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Thread: Name order of Asian name?

  1. #1
    Get it off! It burns! Dennis E. Taylor's Avatar
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    Name order of Asian name?

    I get my names from behindthename.com, and I used L Xuan in my novel. However, I'm not sure which is the family name and which is the given. Can someone with more familiarity give me an opinion? Plsnthx.
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  2. #2
    Swan in Process Siri Kirpal's Avatar
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    Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

    Asia covers a huge continent. Which type of Asian did you have in mind? The name you mention looks Chinese, in which case the family name comes first.

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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW travelgal's Avatar
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    I agree with Siri. It looks a Chinese name, so family name first.
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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW snafu1056's Avatar
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    A common formula for Chinese names is a one-syllable surname followed by two-syllable given name (there are plenty of exceptions, though). There's usually a space between surname and given name, so Le Xuan looks to me like Le is the surname and Xuan is the given name (if it was all one given name it would probably be written "lexuan" with no space). It doesnt fit the common pattern, but like I said, there are plenty of exceptions.
    Last edited by snafu1056; 12-03-2017 at 10:56 AM.

  5. #5
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    L Xuan is a Vietnamese name, albeit missing a word.

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  6. #6
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    "L" is not Chinese.

    If you want something similar-sounding in Chinese, you could go for "Lu" or "Li" or "Liu" as a more common Chinese surname. It would then be written Lu Xuan, with Lu as the family name and Xuan as the given name.

    Also, depending on which part of Asia your character is from, they might have one or two given names. For example, Chinese-Singaporeans and Chinese-Indonesians are much more likely to have two-syllable given names. So instead of Lu Xuan, for example, they might be named Lu Xuanlong etc.
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW remister's Avatar
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    Also, it depends on WHERE your character is. A Chinese in Singapore or China would have the surname first, in English speaking countries they'd put the surname last because when in Rome...

  8. #8
    Get it off! It burns! Dennis E. Taylor's Avatar
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    Well, Captain Le is a couple million miles that way, captaining a space ship. And I never specify his exact ethnicity. The only indication that he isn't white is the name.

    And to be honest, I know of people with the last name Dennis and other people with the first name Taylor, so I don't know how critical it is. I just didn't want to make a glaring error that would make readers facepalm.
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  9. #9
    Get it off! It burns! Dennis E. Taylor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by remister View Post
    Also, it depends on WHERE your character is. A Chinese in Singapore or China would have the surname first, in English speaking countries they'd put the surname last because when in Rome...
    I was wondering if that ever happened. Makes life easier. Thanks.
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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW Cobalt Jade's Avatar
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    Yeah, naming conventions would depend on whatever culture your military follows.

  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by remister View Post
    Also, it depends on WHERE your character is. A Chinese in Singapore or China would have the surname first, in English speaking countries they'd put the surname last because when in Rome...
    There's also a "when" factor as well. A lot of Singaporeans who are of Chinese descent these days may also put their individual name first and family name last. This is especially true if their family gave them a western name like Alice or Steve. I've met Chinese Singaporeans with traditional Chinese names that actually switched over to the Western convention anyway, because their families grew up having so many dealings with Westerners that it was just easier to do it that way. So there are actually a LOT of factors at play, especially when it comes to individual/family preferences for name arrangement.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW remister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shoeless View Post
    There's also a "when" factor as well. A lot of Singaporeans who are of Chinese descent these days may also put their individual name first and family name last. This is especially true if their family gave them a western name like Alice or Steve. I've met Chinese Singaporeans with traditional Chinese names that actually switched over to the Western convention anyway, because their families grew up having so many dealings with Westerners that it was just easier to do it that way. So there are actually a LOT of factors at play, especially when it comes to individual/family preferences for name arrangement.
    When I lived in Singapore, the usual official thing for Chinese is to have SURNAME + CHINESE FIRST NAME + ENGLISH FIRST NAME. You can do whatever you want unofficially, but at that time, even though I wasn't born in Singapore and usually have my chinese surname last, I was automatically switched to surname first in all official documents. But we're digressing... OP probably isn't looking for anything so complicated...

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by remister View Post
    When I lived in Singapore, the usual official thing for Chinese is to have SURNAME + CHINESE FIRST NAME + ENGLISH FIRST NAME. You can do whatever you want unofficially, but at that time, even though I wasn't born in Singapore and usually have my chinese surname last, I was automatically switched to surname first in all official documents. But we're digressing... OP probably isn't looking for anything so complicated...
    This is also true for the purposes of the story being written.

    But oh wow, you lived in Singapore as well? When was this?

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW remister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shoeless View Post
    This is also true for the purposes of the story being written.

    But oh wow, you lived in Singapore as well? When was this?
    I did primary school to junior college there. Let's say 1990+s. I'm an old crone.
    Last edited by remister; 12-04-2017 at 04:15 AM.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by remister View Post
    I did primary school to junior college there. Let's say 1990+s. I'm an old crone.
    We must have "missed" each other. I lived there for over 10 years from '95 onwards. Now back in Canada with a wife from there.

    Still miss the chicken rice...

    Oh, and the carrot cake.

  16. #16
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis E. Taylor View Post
    Well, Captain Le is a couple million miles that way, captaining a space ship. And I never specify his exact ethnicity. The only indication that he isn't white is the name.

    And to be honest, I know of people with the last name Dennis and other people with the first name Taylor, so I don't know how critical it is. I just didn't want to make a glaring error that would make readers facepalm.
    I think that even if you never specify in the book, you should know which Asian country he's from, to avoid the face-palming errors. L Xuan to me sounds Vietnamese, but I don't know the first thing about Vietnamese names, so can't help you there. In some Asian cultures, you'd find names which are common surnames as well as common given names. "Li", for example, is a common Chinese surname as well as a pretty common given name. But in other Asian cultures, surnames and first names are pretty different, which *can* lead to the face-palm moments...I'm looking at you, Eleanor and PARK. So just be sure for yourself which country the name is from, make sure it's correct within that culture, and you're good to go!

    Quote Originally Posted by remister View Post
    I did primary school to junior college there. Let's say 1990+s. I'm an old crone.
    Duuuude, I did primary to secondary school in Singapore in the 90s, we are not old crones, dammit.
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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    Duuuude, I did primary to secondary school in Singapore in the 90s, we are not old crones, dammit.
    Man, clearly Singapore is some kind of nexus.

    Which is kind'a, sort'a true, actually....

  18. #18
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shoeless View Post
    Man, clearly Singapore is some kind of nexus.

    Which is kind'a, sort'a true, actually....
    Singapore is the fuckin' best. Would love to live there again someday. Singlish is hands-down my favorite language on earth. And food in Singapore is a close second to food in Japan, IMO.
    Kallithrix: "you're like pot noodle - you know it's dirty, unwholesome, trashy drunk food, but.... you just want it in your mouf"

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  19. #19
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    Singapore is the fuckin' best. Would love to live there again someday. Singlish is hands-down my favorite language on earth. And food in Singapore is a close second to food in Japan, IMO.
    I could never get it down. My attempts were so horrifying that my local friends were eventually just throwing their hands up and saying, "Dude... no... just stop. It hurts to hear this." And I'd be all, "WHY, AH?!?"

    I had an interesting time in Singapore over the years, but I prefer Canada. Got tired of the Holland V expat crowd, and for creatives, especially in the mid-90s to early 00s, wasn't exactly the free-est place to write what you wanted. Also, I got tired of always having to explain to locals that didn't know me that I wasn't a bass player in some hotel cover band.

  20. #20
    The mean one AW Moderator Cath's Avatar
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    *cough* lovely though the reminiscence is, maybe take it to PM so our thread can continue to answer Dennis's question.
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  21. #21
    Dead. Snitchcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis E. Taylor View Post
    I used L Xuan in my novel.
    Quote Originally Posted by Snitchcat View Post
    L Xuan is a Vietnamese name.
    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    "L" is not Chinese.
    Captain Le is a couple million miles that way, captaining a space ship. And I never specify his exact ethnicity.
    I think that even if you never specify in the book, you should know which Asian country he's from, to avoid the face-palming errors. L Xuan to me sounds Vietnamese
    This is annoying me now.

    So far, 2 people who know what they're talking about have said "L" is NOT a Chinese name; it is/sounds Vietnamese.

    The OP has also NOT specified nationality.

    Why then is "Asian" being equated with "Chinese" still?

    I remember related posts asking for "Asian" information. And, even in those posts, it was a question of specific nationality because the same problem exists in those thread as in this one: Without knowing the specific nationality, and which military this Captain belongs to, accurate information cannot be provided regarding the character's name.

    Yes, the character is secondary, and maybe a throwaway one. However, since the OP asks about name order for "Asian" names, clarification is needed. Which "Asian" nationality? It's the same as someone asking for an "Arabic" name, but not specifying the actual country, e.g., Egypt vs. Saudi Arabia vs. Dubai, etc.
    Last edited by Snitchcat; 12-04-2017 at 09:37 AM.
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  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW snafu1056's Avatar
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    For the record, Le (樂) is a Chinese surname. It's rare, kind of archaic, but yes, it's Chinese, as is the word xuan. So really it's not that odd a conclusion to jump to. But I see what you're saying. I mistook the Vietnamese L for the Chinese Le, which are two totally different words. It's always tricky when you dont have the original character to go by.
    Last edited by snafu1056; 12-04-2017 at 10:12 AM.

  23. #23
    Cultured vulture Albedo's Avatar
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    I don't think the circumflex above 'e' is standard for Chinese romanization, though, whereas it's used in written Vietnamese.

    ETA: Vietnamese L is apparently equivalent to Chinese 黎 (Li).
    Last edited by Albedo; 12-04-2017 at 10:26 AM.

  24. #24
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by snafu1056 View Post
    For the record, Le (樂) is a Chinese surname. It's rare, kind of archaic, but yes, it's Chinese, as is the word xuan. So really it's not that odd a conclusion to jump to. But I see what you're saying. I mistook the Vietnamese L for the Chinese Le, which are two totally different words. It's always tricky when you dont have the original character to go by.
    It's not the "Le" that makes it super obvious that it's not Chinese. It's this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Albedo View Post
    I don't think the circumflex above 'e' is standard for Chinese romanization, though, whereas it's used in written Vietnamese.
    ^^ That's precisely it. There are four different circumflex accent marks in Mandarin and "" is not one of them.

    ETA: Vietnamese L is apparently equivalent to Chinese 黎 (Li).
    Yeah, you'll find that the same Chinese surname will have different versions in different parts of Asia. My family name is Chen, which is the equivalent of Tan in Singapore and Malaysia and Indonesia, Chan in Hong Kong, Trần in Vietnamese, and Jin in Korean. All of them refer to the same character: 陈. But if a character is introduced as Captain Trần, I would immediately assume he's Vietnamese and not Chinese. Similarly, a character introducing himself as Captain Jin would be Korean, and Captain Chan would be Chinese of Cantonese descent.

    So yeah, this is why even though the character's ethnicity is never specified in the novel, the author should at least have an idea where he's from specifically.
    Last edited by Putputt; 12-04-2017 at 10:48 AM.
    Kallithrix: "you're like pot noodle - you know it's dirty, unwholesome, trashy drunk food, but.... you just want it in your mouf"

    Wee hippo has a message for everyone: DIIIIIE.
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  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW remister's Avatar
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    No one's saying Asian = Chinese. I was replying to other posters, not the OP, about the order of Chinese names.

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