Two weeks ago I returned to Taipei to help my wife Summer with her pregnancy, and, well, to “be there” when the kid was born. The expected date was July 4th, 2014, but I suppose the child couldn’t wait for another day. Summer felt some mild contraction and we were at the hospital by 5:00am. It went by pretty quickly afterwards, and Emma More Yang was born on July 3rd, 2014 at 8:47am.
Naming her took a while. We started thinking about her English name a few months ago when we learned the gender. The English name is the easy part, and we took care of it pretty quickly. The only criteria is that our entire family should be able to pronounce it without the need of a correction. In our families, that means that the name can’t contain “r”, “l”, “x”, “h”, “ch”, “sh”, and “th”, can’t have two adjacent vowels or something close to that (like “Fiona”, “Chloe” and “Jewel”,) and should have at most two syllables and no more than 5 or 6 letters. Summer proposed the name “Emma”. Since it satisfies all of the above and we like the name a lot (I personally like both Emma Stone and Emma Watson, so that suits me,) we decided to call her Emma. According to ourbabynamer.com, it has been ranked number 1 or 2 most popular names since 2003 in the United States and number 1 in Canada in the year 2013… not that we knew this before.
Chinese name is trickier. On the one hand there is a sizeable array of Chinese characters that appear more often in names of female infants born between 1970 and 2000 in Taiwan. Characters such as 婷, 琪, 宜, 玲, 君 and their phonetic equivalents were quite commonly used. Taiwan’s Ministry of the Interior conduct a survey in 2012 that is quite comprehensive. Another set of Chinese characters with not a small intersection with the above are those that also appear in Japanese names, such as 美, 奈, 亞, 惠. There is also the set of female celebrity names, characters in names that become popular because some celebrities have or use them as their names or screen names, such as 薰, 妍, 蔓, 蕾, 詩; my wife is particularly fond of these characters. In the same survey, I also learned that the most commonly used characters in female infant names in Taiwan after 1990s are 品, 蓁, 妤, 詩, 涵, 妍.
Since Chinese name has more meaning to me personally, I want to give her a name that embodies some of myself and my wish for her. I like to read and write, and have lots of interest in arts in general, the character 墨 (meaning ink for those Chinese(ly) challenged) come to my mind. I suggest it to my wife and she seems to like it too. The only problem is that even though this character does not usually appear in names, it still possesses a masculine connotation. I need another characters to soften it.
To soften the name I need a more feminine character. I thought I could use a character that my wife like, such as 妍. However, it combines to 墨妍, pronounced the same as the now famous Chinese author 莫言 (Mo Yan) which is fine but honestly none of the characters in his novels are someone I want my daughter to become, or their experience felt; 墨妤 sounds the same as 墨魚 (Cuttlefish,) another no go… and as for 蕾, I don’t feel the kind of connection I am looking for.
I thought the character 兒 (meaning children, son, or a term of endearment if following another character.) reflect what I want her to be, always having the heart of a child, explorative, interested, and harmless. It also occurs to me that 墨兒 pronounce similarly to the English word “more”; more will be bestowed to you; more happiness and prosperity will come to you; and in Christianity, 2 Corinthians 9:8 says “And God can give you more blessings than you need. Then you will always have plenty of everything — enough to give to every good work”. This connection to the English word more is the one that settles the issue. 墨兒 would be her Chinese name and “More” would be her middle name.
Here is Emma More Yang, 楊墨兒 in her first 12 hours of life.