I don’t know why I didn’t ask sooner given Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has been premier and in the news since February 2013. Mum pretty much watches and reads news in Chinese exclusively but she doesn’t care too much about day-to-day politics. However, Wynne’s recent win in the provincial election makes her Ontarios first elected female premier and Mum finally put two-and-two together and asked me, “Did you know the Ontario premier–“ I cut in, “Has my name?! Yes!! What are they calling her in Chinese??”
Mum is utterly perplexed because 韋恩 (simplified: 韦恩) is pronounced “wei yun” in Cantonese and its Pinyin is “wéi’ēn”. Besides the fact they say a one syllable name in English in two syllables in Chinese, it doesn’t sound the least bit like the way Mum calls me: “ween”. (Yeah, secret’s out with that one.) That’s because:
- The Chinese language doesn’t handle one-syllable names so well. More common examples include 约翰 for John and 保罗 for Paul. The latter always just makes me think of “bolo” meaning pineapple. There are too many similar sounding words in Chinese that translating the name to one syllable, it would get lost in conversation and have no context. You hear two characters that don’t string together as a compound you know and you sit up and realize it’s a proper noun.
- As much as Chinese people love (love love) to name their daughters auspicious names like “Winnie”, “win” doesn’t have an exact match amongst Chinese characters. In fact, I wonder if my mum and other Chinese mum’s called Winnies “ween-ie”…? I’m going on a trip with two “Winnies” later this week. This is a question to pose to them for sure.
韋恩, broken down, means “tanned leather / kindness, favour, grace”. 韋 is also the surname Wei, I believe. Mum wondered why they didn’t use something like my Chinese name, 慧. It would sound the same in Cantonese “wei yun” and would mean “wisdom / grace” but the Pinyin changes to “huì ēn” which is less of a match.
Oh, if you throw 韋恩 into Google Translate or Nciku, it kicks out “Wayne”, my least favourite name!! (However, the crazy part is that these days, I feel some “ownership” over it.)
The premier of Ontario is 韋恩 and I am 慧恩. :)