I don’t think I’ve really addressed all my thoughts about giving and calling Kiddo his nickname, 寶寶.
Well. I have a Chinese name given to me by my paternal grandfather which links me and my sister with our two male cousins, sons of my father’s brothers. While my maternal grandmother referred to all of her other eight grandkids by their Chinese names, my sister and I were presented by our English names with an “ah” (呀) tacked before and after it, e.g., 呀-Wynne-呀! I was so remiss that we didn’t use our Chinese names, and in the midst of my identity crisis spanning my mid-teens to mid-twenties, I started calling my sister by her Chinese name. I didn’t ask my parents or sister to call me by mine, funny that.
So, when Kiddo was born, I wanted to refer to him by a Chinese nickname instead of just calling him “Baby” for the first year and then his English name thereafter. It wasn’t a nickname but my mother would say I was her 心肝椗, sweetheart. I was listening to the YouTube video “Cantonese Children’s Songs Part 1” and at the 21:14 mark there’s a rendition of 親親爹哋 where I swear the adult male channels some Aaron Kwok. It’s in that song when the dad refers to his child as 寶寶 that sealed the deal and it became Kiddo’s nickname, 花名. Although recently, my mother told me that 花名 has connotations of being a derogatory name and I should be referring to it as 小名, although the online Cantonese dictionary I refer to does not agree with her.
For a while Kiddo barely knew he has a proper Chinese name. His family calls him 寶寶 and daycare calls him by his English name and that’s the way the world works. My queasiness with MIL calling him such an affectionate name wore off and other relatives call him that in jest but not constantly. He is now five years old and sense that there’s a meaning behind when I address him as 寶寶 or his English name and that is so obvious that I’m not feeling as affectionate. It’s kind of adorable when his younger cousin calls him 寶寶, thinking it’s just a Chinese name.
But he’s now studying Mandarin and my exposure is widening and I learn that while I went with the nickname because I wanted to call him something that means “treasure”, other (Mandarin?) usage of 寶寶 has the meaning “baby” and so I think it’s time to switch up and find him a new nickname that is Chinese. Or start using his Chinese name.
Which brings us to Kiddo’s little sister, Baby. Just before she was born, I wanted to involve Kiddo with naming her. We picked out her English name and in consultation with MIL and my mother, her Chinese name. Kiddo knew he had a nickname and I tapped his help to come up with her nickname. At the time, he was drinking – to my delight – freshly squeezed lemon juice and since we both like lemons, he suggested and we agreed her nicknme would be “ling mung” (檸檬). [Yeah, we are mispronunciation – that’s just how Anglophone we are haha, started and propagated by me with NPY and Kiddo.]
I presented this to my mother who wasn’t too keen because lemons are sour and why nickname your kid a sour fruit! Funny because if you ask Kiddo back then, he would say he thought lemons were sweet tasting. I think he’s revised that since learning how to name the different tastes. In any case, the name stuck. Well, MIL/SIL/FIL like to call her 妹妹 in Mandarin which was SIL’s nickname and I do not like it. I will refer to her as being a 妹妹 using the Cantonese pronunciation because we are a primarily Cantonese-speaking family.
So, Baby has a name she can grow up with – or shrug off in disgust. I’m still trying on potential nicknames for Kiddo.