I am Chinese, and after living abroad from China for several years, I realize that I need an English name anyway. I’ve seen too many confused faces looking at my Chinese name.

My Chinese Name:

I am male, my Chinese first name is (IPA): /ʃəʊ/-/dəʊ/, and my family name is: /dʒi/. (Check ipa-reader.xyz if not clear.)

Any advice about what could be a good idea of a first name, if the last name sounds like "G"?

Something about myself:

I'm a introvert, nerdy person. I don't like social, small talk, public area. I enjoy programming, writing, arguing. Physically I am short, slim, with a huge glasses.

  • This is not the appropriate place to ask this question, or to find an objective answer. A quick search gave me two articles that might provide some guidance: Chinese to English translation and transliteration of Chinese names and This Woman Helps Chinese People Choose Better English Names — Here's Why It's So Important. – Jason Bassford May 31 at 2:55
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    Honestly, I have no idea. You'd have to ask somebody who speaks both Chinese and English fluently, and who has a good understanding of both cultures. But I will say that "you are not a Sean or David" makes no sense to me in any real way. There is really no correlation at all between what somebody is named and who they are. To say there should be is a kind of stereotyping that can be dangerous. At best, names range from plain to odd to esoteric. It's the nature of the name itself that should be focused on, not if it it fits a person's appearance or mannerism or not. – Jason Bassford May 31 at 3:06
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    I don't even know if translating a name is good in principle or not. Why not just pick an English name you like? Lots of people change their names because they don't like the one they had before. (But, again, I'm only expressing my personal opinion. And that could be at odds with Chinese cultural assumptions too.) – Jason Bassford May 31 at 3:08
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    You want something that is pronounced exactly like your family name? or just something close? The only thing pronounced like your family name is the letter G. Some people do use a letter as a name. – Kieran Jack Commanda May 31 at 3:18
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    tchrist's answer gives a good explanation. Sometimes names are chosen because they remind parents of family members or close friends. Sometimes first names are chosen because they sound harmonious with the family's last name. Sometimes names have religious origins, some archaic, exotic, historic, or are just very plain words. – Mari-Lou A May 31 at 17:21

I don’t know what your Chi­nese name is, whether us­ing Chi­nese char­ac­ters or in the Pinyin al­pha­bet that works bet­ter for Western read­ers, but you need to know some­thing very im­por­tant about our English-speak­ing cul­ture: English names al­most never ‘mean’ some­thing the way Chi­nese names do, like how 偉 wěi means ‘great’ or 勇 yǒng means ‘brave’. That’s why many Chi­nese peo­ple have those names, but it does not work that way for us. Our per­sonal names have no in­trin­sic mean­ing of their own, so there can be no mean­ing-based trans­la­tion pos­si­ble.

So if you’re 周到 Zhōu Dao or 孝道 Xiào Dao or some­thing else, this al­most cer­tainly ‘means’ some­thing to you that could not have a mean­ing­ful trans­la­tion into English no mat­ter how thought­ful or pi­ous a good son you might be in your own name-re­lated mind.

Some­times peo­ple are named for fa­mous peo­ple with that name like Cae­sar or Cleopa­tra, but this is not all that com­mon. Nam­ing some­one some­thing that has its own mean­ing like Rock or Prince is un­com­mon, es­pe­cially in boys. In girls, you some­times get flower names like Daisy and Rose or virtue names like Faith and Char­ity. This may be a bit less un­com­mon in Span­ish-speak­ing cul­ture than in English-speak­ing cul­ture, but ei­ther way it still is­n’t all that su­per-com­mon here.

I don’t know why you would not sim­ply go by your real name writ­ten out in Pinyin, but you prob­a­bly have your rea­sons. For ex­am­ple, 趙 Zhào and 著 zhāo and 周 Zhōu and 孝 xiào are all com­pletely dif­fer­ent words, as too are 祷 dǎo and 道 dao, so per­haps it is one that when pro­nounced with­out the cor­rect tones sounds like a to­tally dif­fer­ent word in Chi­nese, and this turns out to some­how be ‘not a nice word’ and so you quite un­der­stand­ably don’t care to hear your­self called that un­pleas­ant thing even out of pure ig­no­rance.

Peo­ple from Ja­pan or In­dia sel­dom make up names for Western­ers to call them in­stead of us­ing their real names, but it is not un­com­mon for Chi­nese peo­ple to do this. If for what­ever rea­son you truly find your real name un­ac­cept­able in our mouths, then per­haps you could choose some sound-se­quence that’s closer to your name and which is an ac­tual Western name that peo­ple would ac­tu­ally rec­og­nize and re­mem­ber as a name, like ‘Joe-Doe Jee’ or even ‘Jojo Gee’ be­cause Jojo is a fa­mil­iar and friendly name for us, usu­ally a nick­name for Jonathan, John, or Joseph.


But my own per­sonal opin­ion, which is worth lit­tle to noth­ing, is that you should con­tinue try­ing to use some­thing as close to your ‘real name’ as our sim­pli­fied Ro­man writ­ing sys­tem and the nar­row rules of English phono­tac­tics can ap­prox­i­mate.

Peo­ple of good in­tent will al­ways do their best to honor your per­sonal name, what­ever you choose.

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  • The reason that I want an English name is, the current name does give people pronunciation troubles, especially in the public, that was a bit awkward. For example, when my German teacher tried to introduce me to a presentation, pinyin becomes puzzle words, while they have no trouble speaking an English name correctly. – DingoStiglitz Jun 1 at 0:32
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    After had make sure that there is no meaning implied by any English names, I will stick with my Chinese name :) It wouldn't be a problem for pinyin readers if I simply add an IPA note aside it. – DingoStiglitz Jun 1 at 0:41
  • @DingoStiglitz I have Chinese students and I have trouble pronouncing hanyu Pinyin. It's not intuitive for us. Have you considered a phonetical transliteration of your name that people where you live now would naturally pronounce correctly? Of course, I say this just as an additional option, not that you should change your name because of our ignorance. – Philosopher of science Oct 8 at 22:37

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