Help my future-husband and I choose a meaningful new last name
July 18, 2014 8:03 PM   Subscribe

We're a mixed-race couple that are getting married soonish and really want to blend our Chinese-whiteness together into one name, but are coming up completely blank. I need ideas! Chinese surname with an alternative spelling? White last name that sounds suspiciously Chinese?

More info: Hyphenating our two last names together is not an option for us. He is Chinese and comes from a Mandarin-speaking family, I am white and have a fairly common caucasian American last name. Our first names both rhyme with the word alien.
posted by Snacks to Human Relations (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Lee? Young?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:05 PM on July 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

What are your last names?
posted by John Cohen at 8:06 PM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Smith plus Lee: Smee.
posted by michaelh at 8:12 PM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

posted by whoaali at 8:15 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Lin, Linn, Lynn, Lynne
Shin, Shinn
Young, Yeung, Yung
posted by Red Desk at 8:22 PM on July 18, 2014

Song (River Song)
Han (Han Solo)
Jung (Carl Jung)
posted by bleep at 8:23 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to work with a couple who had come up with a name something like O'Huang. It was pretty awesome.

Some names I've run across in California history that were used by early Chinese-Americans include Shinn and Howe.
posted by wintersweet at 8:27 PM on July 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

You want a terrific name that sits historically between Asia and Europe.

posted by zadcat at 8:29 PM on July 18, 2014 [39 favorites]


If all else fails you can go for something more overt like O'Zhang or Wangowski or Huangsson.

Upon preview, jinx with wintersweet!
posted by snappysnapper at 8:32 PM on July 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

posted by cazoo at 8:33 PM on July 18, 2014

It's hard to give concrete suggestions without knowing the names involved, but I can offer up the example of the person with the last name of Carroll who married the person with the last name Roblee. They combined their last names to form Carrlee. Also consider bringing in other family names into the mix (what is your mother's maiden name?) or translating your names. For example, if your last name is Jones, that derives from the name John, so you could play around with that - via Jonn or Jon for example.

Many Chinese surnames can be romanized is a variety of ways, so you could check on that and try variations as well, i.e. Huang and Wong and Vong are all versions of the same name.
posted by gudrun at 8:36 PM on July 18, 2014

Lee is a name that definitely sounds both Western and Asian.

If you want something that connotates the coming together of two backgrounds:

Bond (cool factor too on that one but I hope your fiance is not named James)
Link (coincidentally the same last name as a well-known American China scholar)
posted by Dansaman at 8:51 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by SisterHavana at 8:54 PM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe a Chinese word for something that is meaningful to you both? Like lán is the Chinese word for orchid. Or maybe vice versa. A Chinese American author's last name is See. It might be more helpful if you told us more of what is meaningful to you?
posted by lunastellasol at 9:00 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Eng" is a Norwegian, Swedish, and Chinese last name, so would be especially appropriate if your Caucasian American mix skews Scandinavian.
posted by superna at 9:18 PM on July 18, 2014

I think this will be much easier for us to help if you can give us your names! Maybe the mods could anonymize so they aren't linked to your username for all eternity?
posted by amaire at 9:29 PM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

More info as requested above:

Our last names don't blend well IMO so that was thrown out almost right away. ("Wunter? Gross.")

Things that are meaningful to us include perseverance, integrity, spirit of adventurousness and trying new things, personal growth, being open-minded, surfing/snowboarding, Hawaii, and tattoos.

Definitely lots of good, thought-provoking ideas so far, thank you all!
posted by Snacks at 9:33 PM on July 18, 2014

Jong or Jung? Both names can make people think of distinctive famous people but are also somewhat common.

Since you mentioned Hawaii, what about looking through a phonebook? I loved seeing how "mixed" (to quote my students who ID this way) Oahu was, from the pastry shops to the names and photos on political signs, and think it could be a great place to start.
posted by smorgasbord at 9:37 PM on July 18, 2014

Good luck. We racked our brains for months trying to come up with a name that represented both our heritages - I'm Irish, he's Chinese.

My last name is now Wong. We just couldn't make the name merger work. Hope you guys figure out an option you like.
posted by town of cats at 10:09 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

We kept our names then hyphenated (flipped a coin for the order) for our kids who now use one or the other depending on the setting - it's really weird and awesome having my Cambodian teenager with his school name tag as my father's very stodgy english name.

My husband wanted a new name but his suggestions were so so awful I vetoed them. However, there was one nice part - he picked a geographical location for some of them (Mr and Mrs Sentosa and Mr and Mrs Ubin are just bizarre in our context). Is there a town or a streetname that's significant to both of you, like you met in Cabot Cove so you could be Mr and Mrs Cabot?
posted by viggorlijah at 10:16 PM on July 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe two "last" names? He can take yours as his second-last name, and you his, without hyphenating?
posted by mhoye at 10:36 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kee is both Chinese and Irish (as in McKee)
posted by dontjumplarry at 11:40 PM on July 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Macau is sort of east-meets-west and would be a cool surname
posted by dontjumplarry at 11:46 PM on July 18, 2014

From an anonymous commenter:
Anecdata: I am Chinese-American (American born and raised), and my real last name is Joe. "Joe" is actually a less-common Anglicization of an extremely common Chinese surname which would more commonly today be written in pinyin as "Zhou". See also Chow, Chou, Choo (as in Jimmy), etc. Within my own extended family (subject to different eras of Chinese/American/Chinese-American immigration and paperwork) there are at least three different spellings.

It can occasionally be a hassle. It's not usually obvious to people until they actually meet me that I am Chinese. (This can sometimes be helpful.) Especially since I grew up in the southern United States and am female, people tend to link my names together into a compound first name, sometimes for years if uncorrected. Occasionally people think I'm being extremely informal by not introducing myself properly, and can get annoyed. It once got me in trouble with a professor in college.

My brother and dad, in particular, are prone to having their names "corrected" so that their last name is now their first name (even though their first names are common English male first names, too).

It's not as big a deal as you would think, though. It's kind of fun having a unique last name. I've thought about changing the spelling over the years to bring out a greater Chinese connection, but it's the name I've carried all my life, and feels like mine. People can and will adapt to anything. The important thing is to find a name that feels like something you'd be happy to have and, if you like, to pass on. Congratulations on your new life together!
posted by taz at 12:10 AM on July 19, 2014 [4 favorites]

How about a place name that has meaning to you both.


The mandarin word for tattoo is Qing. I kind of like that as a last name, short, easy and meaningful to you both. Also it sounds like King, which is regal.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:54 AM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Maybe translate the Chinese surname, or use something from the story of the name's origin if that makes more sense? For example, Li/Lee (李) Plum, Wang (王) King, Zhang/Chang (張) Archer.
posted by nangar at 4:56 AM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Think of the children! Will you be procreating in China or America? Keep things simple. If you are going to have American children, ask him to take your name. If your children will be Chinese, you should take his. It will make their lives a bit easier if they do not have to go through years of teachers trying to figure out how to pronounce their names.
posted by myselfasme at 5:41 AM on July 19, 2014

I know a couple - she was Lee, he was Keenan - who go by LeeKeenan, and it sounds completely natural.
posted by Dragonness at 5:55 AM on July 19, 2014

Lee seems like it would probably complement the sound of your first names, but it seems a little impersonal to take a name that has no personal connection for you.

Did you try shorter combinations of your names? For example, you mention 'wunter' was a rejected combination...if your names were Wong and Hunter, other possibilities that combine the letters might be Howe, North, Worth, Heron, Rowen, or Newton.

I like the idea of a place name from Hawaii, since it's also a location halfway between the U.S. and Asia, though I don't have any specific suggestions...
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:16 AM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]


And please tell me that one or both of you already has, or will some day have, a Ph.D or medical degree.
posted by ellenaim at 6:35 AM on July 19, 2014 [7 favorites]

OK, another suggestion then, perhaps an anglicized version of the Chinese word/concept De, anglicized as Day perhaps?
posted by gudrun at 6:37 AM on July 19, 2014

Also coming back to add a comment. I know a fair number of Native Hawaiians. Please don't pick a Hawaiian place name as a surname if neither of you have Hawaiian ancestry. That tends to get Hawaiian people's backs up there. Far better to work with your and/or your fiance's ancestry in some way, or things meaningful to you both.
posted by gudrun at 11:14 AM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't have any concrete suggestions, but I suggest picking a name whose pronunciation follows unambiguously from its spelling. Nothing will hold you back in life like people being hesitant to say your name for fear of mispronouncing it. So avoid the options that are "unique" versions of common names.
posted by mantecol at 2:42 PM on July 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

You bring up Wunter. What's a name that links with winter? Snow? White? (Pun unintentional)
posted by divabat at 4:35 PM on July 19, 2014

I'm a big proponent of keeping the last name you have lived your life with. Do you each have one or fewer middle names? Maybe each of you could add the other's last name to yours as a second middle name. It's sort of like hyphenating, but you still get to be Alice Smith.
posted by 256 at 7:13 AM on July 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Followup: Completely out of left-field, Mr. Snacks decided that he was ok with taking my last name because "it sounds cool." I am ok with this. Thanks for everyone's input, we considered the question very carefully and read this thread together to help our decision-making process. <3
posted by Snacks at 6:31 PM on August 18, 2014

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