View Full Version : Asian name

08-25-2016, 03:52 AM
So this is sort of a random question.

In my spec fantasy, I have an Asian character named Ban in my WIP. But I'd like to make his name four letters to fit in with a certain theme. Now, I know Ban is a Chinese name, but I've also been seeing the spellings of Bahn and Banh. I don't want to use Binh. Are these all actually names I can use as first names for a guy? Is it the same name? He doesn't have to be Chinese, either.


08-25-2016, 11:48 AM
I'm a Chinese from Singapore. The practices I am familiar with might differ from the Chinese of other countries. As a quick background, as a Singaporean, I am heavily exposed to both western and eastern cultures. Some of us would go on to be very familiar with both. Most of us, however, will lean on either one side of the other. I lean towards western, but I still retain some eastern heritage. Just think of me as the next best thing until a true-blue Chinese-Chinese guy comes along.

Anyhoo, one thing about the 'Chinese' identity is that it is more... diffused than you might think. There are hundreds. Hundreds! Of dialect groups. True, they were all forced to use a common writing script ever since thousands of years ago, but they, at least, get to keep their dialects. Each dialect has a different way of pronouncing a word, and some would have entirely different pronunciations of a mandarin word altogether. This leads to different romanisations of said words, and therefore, names.

A name would further be subjected to differentiation by subgroups within a dialect, and by 'personalisation'. Some people just want to spell their name differently, or just didn't know better than the version they just cooked up before a government clerk. You can get some weird results, so Bahn and Banh or Binh would be just as realistic as Ban. However, from my Singaporean Chinese culture, I don't know when's the last time I've seen an h being slotted into a character hanyu pinyin..

One thing to note though. Most of the Chinese first names I have encountered have two characters. It's rare to encounter one with just one or three, unless they're nicknames or shorthands. I hope you know that..?

Otherwise, if you honestly didn't know, a simple fix would be simply to call him Ah Ban/Bahn/Banh/Binh. The 'Ah' is a very common prefix, though it's been associated with being simple or from the country side. A hick-name if you will. In this day and age though, fewer people care. Alternatively, it is part of a term of endearment. I got a guy at the office who everyone calls 'Ah Tee'. He's like the office boy here, lol.

EDIT: Oh man, I got way ahead of myself. Other than inserting a 'h', I can only think of Buan. Slightly different pronunciation, sure, but it's the only realistic one I can think of. You could always go with Baan, but that would really be stretching it - I'm questioning my memory right now, as I'm not sure if I've seen a double A before in Chinese name romanisation. Otherwise... Phuan, which is a slight modification of Pan that I might have seen somewhere. Note that pronunciation in Chinese is very different from pronunciation in English.

For a quick guide on Chinese pronunciation, look up hanyu pinyin.

08-26-2016, 11:41 AM
Bahn.... That had me going for a while until xbriannova said "Pan". Not sure if this is the name you're after, but will run with it and show what's in a (Chinese) name.

Did you want Mandarin or Cantonese, or another dialect?

Simplified Chinese: 鹏
Traditional Chinese: 鵬

Mandarin: Peng
Cantonese: Pang

Meaning (one of): Roc.

This name would mostly be part of a 2-word first name: E.g., "Zhan Peng"; rarely would it be used on its own. You'd likely have friends calling your character "Zhan Peng" or, if you only wanted to use "Peng", then it'd be more "Pengge" ("big brother Peng") or "Ah Peng". "Xiao Peng" (Mandarin), or "Pang tszai" (Cantonese), are also acceptable familiar terms if the character addressing the MC is older or a peer; younger characters would use "Pengge" if they know him as such.

In Cantonese romanisation, the "h" can be used. But in Mandarin pinyin, I've never seen it used like that.

For full Chinese names, it depends on your location. However, for the majority of the Chinese-speaking communities throughout the world, the most common is a three-word name; in Mainland China, though, two-word names are common.


Three-word names: CHAN Tai Man (Cantonese) / CHEN Da Wen (Mandarin)
Two-word names: CHIU Mun (Cantonese) / ZHAO Wen (Mandarin)

Also, note that spelling will differ per dialect, per region, per country. And it will sometimes change again depending on what part of the world your character is in, and how much of his heritage he cares to acknowledge or not.

And as illustrated above, the way his name is used will also change depending on his status compared to whoever is addressing him.

08-26-2016, 11:58 AM
When I see Banh, I think of Vietnamese. I think it's a sandwich?

ETA: Just looked it up. It means cake or bread.

Just FYI, Asian names are chosen based on its meaning. It's not so much male/female names. They're a lot more interchangeable than Western names, so a lot of times you'll see both a male and a female have the same name, although sometimes a name can be more common towards one gender vs. the other.

08-26-2016, 11:34 PM
Hi all, thanks for your responses. Really good to know how these names work. So the book I'm writing is in the future in the US and I want to use a diverse cast from the sort of cultures I interact with daily. I'm diverse too.

As I've interacted with different Asian American communities, most either change their names into an English name or use some form is a simplified Asian name. Good point about the two word names, but I haven't noticed it much in the US.

Yeah, I wanted to double check about Banh because of the Vietnamese translation.

I think I'll just go with Bahn. The only thing that worries me is that when I google that spelling, I get it to be of European origin.

08-27-2016, 02:07 AM
German 'Bahn'? Road or way? Not generally a name in German, I think. I'm sure most readers will figure it out, if you indicate that the character is Asian.

08-28-2016, 04:52 AM
Baan, or Bahn, is also used in many Thai place names -- means "house" or "home," but can also signify a village. Many Thai restaurants in the US are called "Bahn Thai" or "Baan Thai." It might even be the most common name for a Thai restaurant here. So perhaps people in the US will think of Thailand before they think of Germany when they read it?