I’ll start by rehashing some old ground first.
When it came to naming the kid, I always wanted an easy to pronounce, easy to spell, non-monosyllabic name that Chinese people could pronounce. To an extent, I quite admire how a three-letter name like Mia can be two syllables. Or Alia is just four letters and is three syllables. Let’s just be efficient!
We found out his sex in February 2015 and we like to fondly remember that the night we found out, we laid out some names and decided and never wavered from our choice.
The kid could spell out his name well before he was three (but I can’t remember exactly when now, and he just turned three) and floored his teachers at daycare one day at circle time when children were sharing their names and he told them, “Evan E-V-A-N!”. It’s adorable how he thinks all four letters are “his letters” and what letters he shares with our names.
At his birthday party last Saturday, I unveiled letter shaped donuts I custom ordered from Cartem’s which were kid- and crowd-pleasing. One friend told me some people (read: he) would feel gypped with a short name because it translated to fewer donuts. MIL commented that I stuck four candles in (four donuts) when he’s only turning three and I told her that it had all crossed my mind already both that he’s not turning four and four is unlucky in Chinese. But I stuck a candle in each letter anyways and if I only wanted to use three candles, which letter loses out? Which letter do I like the least or consider least essential?? (Maybe it’s the “A”.)
I was frankly surprised when some Chinese people couldn’t pronounce his name right off the bat. Uh…
I didn’t think of what transliteration there could be. Maybe something with the cloud character (雲) for “-van” in Cantonese or culture character (文) in Mandarin, both sounding more like “wun”.* MIL had some difficulty at first. And my mother – bafflingly and frustratingly – would call him Kevin. (And I would shout at her. My issues: that is, that she doesn’t see him often and I was hurt that she couldn’t get his name straight, emphasizing how she doesn’t interact with him often.)
When my cousins met him and learned his name, they looked at each other and exclaimed, “That’s the name we want to use, too!” My cousin was over three months along at that time. They were not completed decided between “Ivan” and “Evan” as both names matched the Chinese name they would give him.
It’s because even before they married and were pregnant, they discussed having three children and they already knew the Chinese names of the siblings. They would be linked by a Chinese phrase, “一帆風順“ meaning “smooth sailing ahead” or wishing someone luck when they are travelling far and for a long period of time. They had/have the intent of naming their kids 一帆, 一風 and 一順. Apparently each of those names is relatively gender-neutral insofar as Chinese names go?
They have two kids now and have followed the plan. Their first kid is named Evan and it kind of sounds like 一帆. Their second child is named Sean, where they abandoned trying to transliterate from Chinese 一風, heh. I’m not in their inner circle so I don’t know if a third is still in the books.
But I was floored and dismayed recently when I learned that my grandmother, great-grandmother to two Evans just six months apart in age, thought that my kid is also 一帆. Um, no.
* It just occurred to me that a potential nickname for kid is 轀仔 which means van/minivan, so it is “van” in English. Also, 仔 is colloquial for “kid” like we would say “Evan 仔” for a more familiar feeling, thus 轀仔 could mean “Van kid”, not far off from his name at all and, not off the mark considering he’s growing up in Vancouver!