Saturday, October 9, 2004

Ambiguous Hanzi Tattoo - Case Study 3

"Not a Strength Trap"? What the hell does that mean? Does he want everyone to know that his right arm is not as strong as the left one? Perhaps he was a victim of Poliomyelitis and did not get his vaccine in time when he was a child?

莫 = not, lack of

力 = force, strength, power

羅 = snare, trap


  1. In this case, it's probably a transliteration of his name - "Morillo," maybe.

    This is why transliterating anything into Chinese should be against the law.

  2. So how should Western names be referred to in Chinese?

  3. if thats a name, what he has done is simply gotten a more or less phonetically sounding bunch of chinese characters made up to sound like his name in chinese (which if his name is really morillo, it was probably done off cantonese)

    while there really isnt any other way of doing it, many times these methods have just come up with names that are absolutely silly. some of the better examples of english-chinese names have been the names of the governors of HK, some of them actually sound pretty good in chinese (i esp like the translation of Chris Patten into chinese, as it actually sounds like an actual chinese name unless you know)

  4. I would like to reply to the question posted "So how should Western names be referred to in Chinese?"

    Start with a reliable source, website like has a large sections of Chinese translation of Western names, both surnames and given names.

    If you name is not found there, then contact someone in local educational community. Chinese language department of local university is a good place to go to.

    You can even contact Chinese news agency.

    The key is to do research, and don't let some schmuck that barely completed high school to tell you what your name should be like in Chinese.

  5. It's good to note, though, that there are very few English names that transliterate well into Chinese; transliterations are often clumsy, ugly-sounding affairs. In my book, at least...

  6. well many chinese have english names and they don't do a literal translation.
    in many asian countries that speak chinese and english, their english names have no corelation with their chinese ones, both are decided upon independently, so why should westerners have to have similar sounding chinese names. i think its wiser to just have a chinese name that sounds nice and is meaningful somewhat. for instance,
    June Chen Mei Xian, mei xian actually incorporating some meaning.