About your name

This letter will be all about your name. Since you are the child of an “intercultural couple” this is more complicated than for other children, and there are a few “stories” about your name.

Chinese and German are very different languages, with different writing systems and also incompatible sound systems. German uses the Latin alphabet (and, more or less, the same pronunciation as the original Latin, not like English), while Chinese has no “letters” at all. Also, German doesn’t use different “tones” like Chinese does. Your Mom and me agreed that it will be almost impossible to find one name for you that is possible in terms of spelling and pronunciation in both German and Chinese. The only options would be names like “Hanna” or “Lina” or something quite simple. Additionally, your Mom (coming from a quite traditional family) insisted on asking a fortune teller for advises on your name according to your “bazi”, your astrological birth signature. Therefore, we agreed that you will have a double name, an “alphabetical” one and a “Chinese” one, plus your family name “Chen” (陳). Legally, you could have my family name, your Mom’s family name, or a double family name of both our names. But since “Mehlich” doesn’t sound good and literally invites for teasing (or even bullying) in German, we decided to give you “Chen” as your family name.

Long before you were planned and made, I thought of naming my future daughter “Tsolmontuya”. When I studied Chemistry I had a Mongolian classmate with that name. I was impressed by its beautiful sound, the warm and feminine character, and its rich and “round” intonation. I imagine a “vagabond”-like lady in a purple cloak riding on a black horse through the Mongolian grasslands with her long black hair flowing in the wind… Also the “short version”, the nickname “Tsolmo”, sounds cute and lovely, but not too girlish or “cheesy”. In Mongolian language, “Tsolmon” is the name for the “Southern Star” (which is actually a planet: Venus) and “Tuya” means “light” or “shining brightly”. After we knew you will be a girl, I suggested this name to your Mom and she didn’t like it first, because it is “too long” for Chinese understanding. But I used a trick: for a few months I talked about this name frequently, in its long and short form, and made her get used to the sound. Finally, she also liked it. Another convincing argument for giving you this name was this: People in Taiwan are used to English names. Most people are so narrow-minded that everything outside of Taiwan is automatically “English” (or “American”). Most German names exist also in English (for example “Sarah”, “Kathrin”, “Elisa”, etc.). But English changes the pronunciation, so that there will always be confusion. The pronunciation of the name Tsolmontuya would be clear, I thought. There is only one way to read it for everyone who can read Latin letters, independent from the mother tongue of the reader (German, English, French, Spanish, whatever). Later I found to my surprise that English-speaking people have difficulties with this name because of the “Ts” in the beginning. I tell them that the first syllable is pronounced like “toll” but with an inserted “s”. The syllable “mon” is clear, “tu” sounds like “two” (maybe English would make it sound like “tew”…), and “ya” should be clear again. To say it clearly: This name is uncommon and mostly unknown in Germany. But since Germany is a very pluralistic and multicultural society, this doesn’t matter at all. I think, this “unique and mysterious” name suits you – an obviously half-asian and quite “exotic” girl – very well! Also, you will have stories to tell to whoever is interested in the origin of your beautiful name.

The Chinese name was – in a way – out of our hands. You were born on February 19th 2016 at 12:37pm. According to Chinese astrology, that is a Yang-Fire-Monkey year, a Yang-Metal-Tiger month, a Yin-Metal-Sheep day and a Yang-Wood-Horse time (or hour). The “name Master” (or “fortune swindler… aehm… teller”) looked at your birth dates and your parents’ dates, and made suggestions. My “Chinese name” 王子洋 (which is NOT my name, I still insist; I just have to use a Chinese name for the inflexible Taiwanese bureaucracy) made also this Master believe that “Wang” (王) could be your family name. When he heard that the options are “Chen” or the German name “Mehlich”, he explained that the whole system doesn’t apply for non-Chinese names – which means to me that it is not “universal” and, therefore, superstitious non-sense. However, his infinitely deep pool of wisdom produced suggestions for the first and second characters of your given name. Your Mom, back home then, took an old book about the meaning and influence of stroke numbers in names onto the person’s fortune and life quality and figured out the “perfect combination”. Among all these, the acceptable ones were “語妍(Yu-Yan)”, “語彤 (Yu-Tong)”, “語韻 (Yu-Yun)”, “詩韻 (Shi-Yun)”, “詩媚 (Shi-Mei)”, “紫媚 (Zi-Mei)” and “紫韻 (Zi-Yun)”. We both liked “紫媚 (Zi-Mei)” the most, by sound and also by meaning (紫 is the colour purple, 媚 is something like “female charme” and part of words like “graceful” or “adorable”, which adds up to my associations with the name “Tsolmontuya”). Names like “Yuyun” or “Shiyun” are simply unpronounceable for German, and “Yutong” sounds like the biggest German cement and concrete producing company. “Zimei” doesn’t even sound too different from “Tsolmo”. However, your Mom found later, that she made a mistake in counting the stroke numbers that are required to write the name. After correcting this error, the new “perfect name” was “麗媚 (Li-Mei)”. I am fine with that name, especially since it includes 麗, the name of one of my best and most beloved friends and your “Godmother” Ren Li. Additionally, it is also easy for German to say it.

To summarise all that: You have two nationalities, and therefore, two passports. The name on your Taiwanese ID and passport will be 陳麗媚, and in the Pinyin transcription on the passport “Chen Li Mei” (or maybe “Li-Mei”, we will see…). There is no space for “Tsolmontuya”. On your German ID and passport it will appear as “Tsolmontuya Limei Chen”, or when it is split as “Vorname (given name): Tsolmontuya Limei; Nachname (family name): Chen”. German can’t print Chinese characters in their official ID documents.

I wonder if you will ever be confused. According to German understanding, one person can have only one name. It makes no sense to have two “official” names (nicknames are a different thing). I thought that your Mom and me once agreed that “Tsolmontuya” will be your actual name, and that we have to choose a “Chinese name” just because the Taiwanese bureaucratic system requires it (the same as in my case). However, it turned out that for your Mom you are 麗媚, and “Tsolmontuya” is your inevitable “alphabetical name”. For other Taiwanese, you are also 陳麗媚, and then they usually ask your “English name” (whatever makes them believe that a Taiwanese-German couple would give an English name to their offspring). However, it is impossible for them to pronounce “Tsolmontuya”. That means, in the first 5-6 years of your life you will be called 陳麗媚 most of the time, and only “Tsolmo” by me. When we live in Germany and you join schools and clubs, etc., I will enroll you under the name “Tsolmontuya”. I am sure, people will call you “Tsolmo” when you introduce yourself as that. If someday you decide to use “Limei” because you like it more or identify yourself more with that name, I will be fine with that. Having two names is, therefore, an advantage: Most people don’t have that choice! And I won’t be disappointed when you disapprove my choice of a name for you. At least, now you know how we chose your name.