Usage of specific kanji for the name Hideyoshi
September 6, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Am I using the kanji "" correctly, when combined to create the name "Hideyoshi" and translation of "flourish + beauty?" Am I even doing it right?

I would like to use these specific characters for a name, but I am uncertain if I am interpreting each meaning correctly, much less whether or not they can be combined in this way, with the same pronunciation and/or translation.

I have seen other character combinations in this list, but since I do not see my preferred usage displayed, I am unsure if what I'm doing is "wrong" in a sense. Of course, I do leave hope that the list is not exhaustive nor complete, and that I'm just bean-plating this.

Basically I don't want the name to have any unintended consequences associated with it, whether it's a bad interpretation or anything "non-native."

No, it's not for a tattoo, but it is intended to be semi-permanent and important.
posted by CancerMan to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not that great with name kanji, but Google suggests that this name is generally read "Emi", "Eimi", or "Eibi", not "Hideyoshi". It also appears to be a female name. The dictionary you used above concurs. Given this, I would not use this kanji combo for "Hideyoshi" -- it will probably not be read that way by a native speaker.
posted by vorfeed at 1:04 PM on September 6, 2011

Vorfeed is right. You are unlikely to get the reading that you're looking for, with 'Emi' being the most likely.

Instead, you should take a look at the Name Dictionary from the WWWJDIC. It will give you a better idea of some real-world character combinations. Plus, you can look for names starting or ending with the character you're interested in.
posted by Alison at 1:30 PM on September 6, 2011

I've got the enamdict sitting right here. For any given reading of a Japanese man's name, there can be many ways to write it, and for any given writing of a Japanese man's name, there can be many ways to read it. So all kinds of things are possible. As I understand it, enamdict includes all the attested variations on a name that it can, although it doesn't make any representations as to what's common or rare. I see that 榮美 (note the slight variant form of 栄) is in there as a way to write "Hideyoshi," but I'll bet it's a rare reading—and it can also be read "Eimi" apparently (which is a new one on me). According to enamdict, there is at least one person in history who did use this orthography for his name, Hirao Hideyoshi.

And of course, when we hear "Hideyoshi," the first person most folks would think of is Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and his name is written 秀吉.
posted by adamrice at 1:41 PM on September 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Use the WWWJDIC name dictionary as suggested above. Get help from a native speaker if you can, because using the wrong characters in a name can create ridiculous and incomprehensible results. There is a particular logic and sensibility with names in Japanese. The right combination of kanji characters make people either gasp with delight, or smirk with disdain and scorn. Then again, Hideyoshi is not exactly a neutral name; it's like adopting the name "Clovis" or "Ethelbert" or "Harthacnut".
posted by KokuRyu at 2:28 PM on September 6, 2011

Hideyoshi is spelled 秀吉.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:02 PM on September 6, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the reference to WWWJDIC. I also neglected to enter my first choice into the other dictionary as a "reverse lookup"; that would have undoubtedly saved me some time.

And it's precisely to avoid derision that I want to use the right characters, so my first selection is out the window. I'm less concerned about rarity or association with historical figures (unless it's extremely negative), so names like 秀吉 or 秀義 could still work.

The selection of "Hideyoshi" is not concrete, and I have the freedom to choose something else, so long as it begins with "ひ". If it comes to that, I can try to build a list of possible names to bounce off native readers.

Out of curiosity, what is the logic and sensibility behind Japanese names, particularly in the selection of kanji? Perhaps that could serve me well by helping to narrow the list to something more meaningful.
posted by CancerMan at 3:25 PM on September 6, 2011

Unfortunately, in this day and age the "logic and sensibility" is to avoid being mundane and predictable. Giving your kid a straightforward and easily written (and read) name is considered scandalous.

I've been told that there are consultants who are experts in obscure readings of kanji, who can come up with really weird ways to spell what are otherwise rather normal names.

Which is why it is quite common for names to be written with furigana, because without that you wouldn't have a clue how to read them.

(By the way, when kanji are used in names, they are used phonetically. The meanings of the kanji are ignored.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:34 PM on September 6, 2011

This page might be useful. Scan down to "Hi" on both columns. If you see a name which looks interesting, click it to see how it's spelled in Japan. (Sorry, not all of the entries have such spellings, but many do.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:38 PM on September 6, 2011

you can pronounce kanji however you want.

read up on ateji
posted by Infernarl at 6:04 PM on September 6, 2011

you can pronounce kanji however you want. read up on ateji

Sure, just as you can name your kid Quetzalkimb3rly and then tell people it's pronounced "Sam". No native speaker of Japanese would read 栄美 as "Hideyoshi", though, so if that's what the OP wants he should look elsewhere.
posted by vorfeed at 9:07 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

In contrast to Chocolate Pickle, the things people were telling me about naming their kids were

- looking for names that were easy to internationalize, so lots of names like まり、 まりえ、 えみ、のえみ、えりか with whatever kanji
- looking for names that were not obviously easy to make fun of in other major languages (I won't get into specific examples; also, I've seen this same question on AskMe from English-speakers)
- having auspicious positive meaning the kanji,
- having a good number of strokes in the characters (even number is good, iirc?)

The city I lived in had to be one of the most pregnant in Japan, but it's very possible you'll find a wide variety of attitudes on this as you would in many other countries.
posted by whatzit at 3:08 AM on September 7, 2011

Response by poster: - having auspicious positive meaning the kanji,
- having a good number of strokes in the characters (even number is good, iirc?)

These last two points intrigue me. Is there some reference or set of guidelines somewhere that influences name selection? For example, the name 彦朗 translates each character as "lad; boy (ancient)" with 9 strokes, and "melodious; clear; bright; serene; cheerful" with 10. How would that fall under the guidelines of "names that won't get me teased or beaten up for?"
posted by CancerMan at 3:59 PM on September 7, 2011

In Japan, the numbers 4 and 9 are considered unlucky.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:56 PM on September 7, 2011

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