[This is from the e-mail I sent to my family, informing them that some of them now have a Chinese surname…]
Alright, whoever first brought our family name into English from whatever European language it came from obviously didn’t do the greatest job. The letters don’t match the pronunciation in any language, we have to tell people how to say it every single time they see it written, and even our German friends don’t recognize it. But here’s the latest attempt by one of our clan to transplant our name into another language: é™†
You may be wondering… it says “LÃ¹.” But here’s where it gets a little complicated. This means that Dad, Ryan, the girls, and Miriam are all supposed to be Mr. LÃ¹ (“LÃ¹ XiÄn-sheng” – é™†å…ˆç”Ÿ) or Miss LÃ¹ (“LÃ¹ XiÇŽo-jiÄ›” – é™†å°å§). Jessica, Mom, and Tami can pick whatever family name they want because women don’t change their family name when they marry in China. But once they pick one, their respective fathers and siblings are stuck with it. Some foreigner couples take the same last name in Chinese, but it apparently sounds a little weird, like you’re related as siblings or something.
The family name doesn’t generally carry any meaning in Chinese, only the given name has meaning. After months of collecting suggestions and asking people’s opinions I picked lÃ¹ because it sounds closer to our English last name than the other suggested Chinese family names (like rei, bu, mu, and ru (don’t be deceived; that’s not really an r and we still can’t pronounce it properly yet)). The final choice was between lÃ¹ and mÃ¹. But Mingdaw says æ…• (mÃ¹) with my given name sounds a little grandiose, and that it reminds him of characters from Chinese kung-fu stories, and Jessica pleaded that I consider how it would be for all our future children to be part of the “Moo family.” I almost pointed out that in Britain, being part of the “Loo family” might not be so great either, but what can you do… It’s like trying to buy clothes while blindfolded when you’re used to running around naked, and having to ask all your friends what looks good on you, but your friends all have contradicting opinions.
[Jessica, with less than 1/100th the effort, landed a great name. But I’ll let her post about that herself.]