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How to understand Chinese names?

范若君
潘保罗

圆方
李小龙

小雨
老张


Where are surnames and names?

What do 小 and 老 mean and how to make names with them?

For learning: Chinese (Mandarin)
Base language: English
Category: Culture

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    范若君 --- the surname is 范; the first name is 若君
    潘保罗 --- the surname is 潘; the first name is 保罗

    圆方 --- the surname could be 圓; the first could be 方, since I am not sure if 圓 is a proper surname.
    李小龙--- the surname is 李; the first name should be 小龙.

    小雨--- the surname is not clear since 雨 is not a common surname.
    老张--- the surname is 張; the first name is not clear.

    Both "小 + surname" or "老 + surname" are something you can used to call your someone you know well. If you think this person you address is young, you use "小", otherwise use "老". Sometimes you call a young kid 老張 simply because everyone calls him that way. The rule can be flexible at times.

    http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E4%B8%AD%E5%9B%BD%E4%BA%BA%E5%90%8D

    http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%9A%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B9%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B5_%D0%B8%D0%BC%D1%8F

    A person is called by
    1) his full name
    or
    2) his name only
    or
    3) his nickname / stage name / pen name / etc.

    In case 1), you find the full name a set of 2 to 4 characters. If it's a set of 2 characters, then the first is the surname and the last is the name. e.g. 林美 (here 林 is the surname and 美 is the name). If it's a set of 3 characters, then the first one is the surname OR the first two is the surname (we call it a 'compound surname' in English, or ' 複姓 ' in Mandarin). e.g. 歐陽龍 / 欧阳龙 (here 歐陽 / 欧阳 is one of the known 'compound surnames' and 龙 is the name). e.g. 司馬光 / 司马光 (here 司馬 / 司马 is another of the known 'compound surnames' and 光 is the name). e.g. 李大同 (here 李 is an ordinary surname and 大同 is the name). e.g. 施欣欣 (here 施 is again an ordinary surname and 新欣 is the name). If it's a set of 4 characters, then the first two is the compound surname and the last two is the name. e.g. 司馬中原 / 司马中原 (here 司馬 / 司马 is the compound surname and 中原 is the name). e.g. 張簡士豪 / 张简士豪 (here 張簡 / 张简 is a known compound surname and 士豪 is the name)

    In case 2), you find it a set of 2 characters mostly. e.g. 士豪 (here 士豪 is the name because 士 is not a surname or at least not a common surname nowadays), here we can only know his name but not his full name (maybe he is 林士豪 or 郭士豪 or 司馬士豪, we don't know) and suppose it him because it looks undoubtedly a boy name (it could be a girl name, though, in some extreme cases). You might have a question: why can't we just call 林美 (an undoubtedly girl name mentioned in the first paragraph) by her name 美? It simply doesn't exist in this language, not the custom I mean.

    In case 3), you find it with many possibilities. Oftentimes 小 or 老 (which works as a diminutive) is taken and followed by the SURNAME ONLY. e.g. 小郭 or 老郭. e.g. 小徐 or 老徐. Still, Oftentimes 小 or 阿 (same, working as a diminutive) is taken and followed by either of his/her two-character NAME whatever his/her surname is. e.g. 阿豪 for 張簡士豪 (an example mentioned before). e.g. 小美 or 阿美 for 林美 (an example mentioned before). Oftemtimes, you can doule either of a person's two-character name to make his/her nickname. e.g. 豪豪 for 張簡士豪 (a full name). e.g. 美美 for 林美 (a full name).

    Anyway, hope this draws a whole picture to you that how it goes in this language concerning names :-)

    Now back to your examples listed:

    范若君 (it's a full name and 范 is the surname because 范若 is not a compound surname)
    潘保罗 (it's a full name and 潘 is the surname because 潘保 is not a compound surname)
    圆方 (it's likely a name because I've never heard of the surname 圓 / 圆 supposing it does exist)
    李小龙 (it's a full name and 李 is the surname because 李小 is not a compound surname)
    小雨 (it's a nickname and his/her name probably has this girly character 雨)
    老张 (it's a nickname for someone whose surname is 張 / 张)

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    I got a test for you :-)

    a) can you guess what 諸葛亮 / 诸葛亮 is?
    b) can you guess what 洪都拉斯 is?

    The answer is right the bottom but please don't scroll down your page without taking seconds trying to answer :D

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    Answer:

    諸葛亮 is a full name and 諸葛 is a known compound surname.
    洪都拉斯 is just a Taiwanese entertainer's stage name (nope, 洪都 is not a compound surname).

    BTW, further info about compound surnames at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_compound_surname

     

    名字意义很难搞懂的,我们有时都不明白别人名字的意思,最好的办法就是问名字的主人。
    “老”一般用在同事朋友中年纪比自己大点的,小相反。但有时也有例外。我喜欢叫每个人都用“小”什么,因为人人都喜欢年轻点。遇到年纪大的,可以用大哥,大姐。遇到年纪更大的,可以用叔叔,阿姨。称呼是不只是为了尊敬,用的好也可以让对方心情好。

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