I picked up this leaflet while at the Taiwanese Immigration Agency that describes when and why you might need a Chinese name. It’s all pretty standard, but the thing that interested me most was the very last section on words to avoid.
The words below are listed as inappropriate for your Chinese name. Some of these words you should obviously avoid – ‘pervert’ for example, and there are also other words that have interesting stories behind them, but then some seem out of place. Having ‘pig knuckle’ or ‘old’ for a name, while a bit silly, doesn’t seem to warrant specifically adding them to this short list.
I’m sure that I’ve missed some of the nuances here, so please correct me if you know of a better reason why not to choose these words for your new Chinese name.
豬角 ( ) pig knuckle
Apart from sounding like 豬腳, the word for pig knuckle, I don’t know of any context that makes this worth specifying here. I’ve even heard that eating pig knuckle, in Taiwanese culture, can improve you luck. Do you know of something?
蝦 ( ) shrimp
This could possibly me mistaken for 瞎 ( ) which means ‘blind’, and reminds me of this great Horse Dragon Fish comic on exactly these two homonyms.
罔市 ( ) fed whatever
Out of all the words, 罔市 has the most back-story. In Taiwanese 罔市 sounds the same as 罔飼, which means to ‘temporarily feed’. According to the entry in the Taiwan MOE’s dictionary, in early Taiwan the name was given to unwanted daughters – Since the daughter has been born the parents may as well ‘temporarily feed’ her while, I suppose, trying again for a son. Quite harsh to say the least.
色 ( ) color; pervert, perverse
Maybe you want to express how colorful of a person you are and so choose 色 for your name. However, you probably don’t want to be that colorful.
肖維 ( ) crazy
This sounds very similar to the Taiwanese for ‘crazy’.
死 ( ) dead
This seems self-explanatory. If Taiwanese culture goes so far as to avoid the number four because it sounds like ‘death’, then you should probably avoid it in your name.
老爾 ( ) old
Another one that I’m not sure if there is a meaning I’m missing, other than hearing that you are ‘old’ for the rest of your life. It’s also possible that 老爾 sounds too close to 老二, the slang for ‘penis’.
This list really is short and obviously not a comprehensive list, which makes the inclusion of some entries even stranger. It feels like someone went round the office and collected a few names to make this list.
I’m also not sure if your ID would be denied if you were to choose one of these names. I mean, If I want to me ‘Mr Perverse Pig Knuckle’, isn’t that my business?
Here’s the full leaflet in both Chinese and English (click for large version):