Nicknames – China


??                ??                  ??            ??                  (Chinese Characters)

Gnu        e         xin            gu             bo               bei             (Chinese in English)

My                     heart                 liver            baby                 (Transliteration)

My precious baby                                                                    (Translation)


???        ??                        (Chinese Characters)

Xiao          de    de                      (Chinese in English)

Little         (articles)                    (Transliteration)

Little                                          (Translation)

Rosemarie – Nicknames

Rosemarie told me that it is traditional Chinese culture for grandparents to give nicknames to their grandchildren. The names sometimes stand for something cultural, but sometimes they have no significance at all. For instance, the name Rosemarie inherited from her grandmother does not mean anything. Xiao translates to “little,” however “de de” is only added for fun. Technically, “de de,” are only articles. Nicknames are not required to have any symbolic meaning and thus can be used merely to distinguish between different people.  “Xiao” referred to the fact Rosemarie was small and adorable when she was young. Rosemarie also said that her grandmother gave her the nickname purely for the fact that it was cute and fun to say.

On the completely opposite side of the spectrum, her grandfather gave her a nickname that did have symbolic significance. Although “My precious baby,” is nothing out of the ordinary. The “liver” in the literal translation kind of is. Why would a grandfather put the word “liver” in the nickname for her granddaughter? The liver is a symbol for an essential organ. So, the grandfather insinuated that he could not live without his daughter because he could not live without a liver. An actual translation would be more along the lines of “My precious baby.” The connotation behind the name is the phrase “I love you, and I need you as much as I would need an organ.” The nickname signifies how much Rosemarie’s grandfather cared for her and wished to be with her as much as possible. This nicknaming tradition is very common in many Chinese families around the country and not only centralized in the Shanghai region.

Rosemarie is still called these names even though she now lives in America. Her grandfather called her the same name until he passed away a few years ago.  The names were not relegated to any specific holiday or special time and were used casually on a daily basis.

At first, Rosemarie’s grandmother refused to write down the Chinese characters because she did not want to be included in a research study. But after she was notified that her name would remain anonymous and it was only going to be archived and used for educational purposes she decided that it would be okay for her to help out with the collection item. I believe that the reason for the hesitance is the fact that Rosemarie comes from a prosperous family and they did not want to be responsible for any legal liability in the future.