Chinese name problems.
February 12, 2010 9:02 AM   Subscribe

How do I differentiate between two possibilities in Chinese?

My partner's birthday is coming up, and I had a great idea for a gift. there's this guy who does books out of plates of metal with acid-etched images/words on the "pages". I want his last name in Chinese on the cover(he's ABC, but his family is from Hong Kong). I asked a friend who has lived in China, and he gave me two possibilities for how Lai could be written in Cantonese: 黎 or 賴 . Any guidance?
posted by daveqat to Writing & Language (4 answers total)
to be sure you should ask one of his family members, otherwise i'm not sure if there's a way for anyone here to be able to tell you which of the names it is... this is like asking if we think his name is spelled jon or john LOL
posted by raw sugar at 9:06 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

yeah...this is something you can't guess at, or ask others who don't know him. Different characters are different words with different meanings, even though they may be pronounced the same. Another complication is how your friend pronounces his name: his family might pronounce it in an Americanized way, leaving you with little clue how it is actually pronounced in Cantonese, and therefore you may be choosing the character based on the wrong pronunciation.
posted by bearette at 9:23 AM on February 12, 2010

agree with the above. the first of the two possibilities is a more common last name in HK, but you don't want to take your chances with this.
posted by bread-eater at 9:28 AM on February 12, 2010

Sorry but there's absolutely no point in making a guess. Getting it wrong is a big no-no. You need to ask.
posted by randomstriker at 9:42 AM on February 12, 2010

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