Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Names: Some Random Thoughts Inspired by a Photo from Korea

One of the things I find charming about eastern Asia is the popularity of English names. Many people, especially professionals, take on an English name of their own choosing. Some of the names are really beautiful and others are a bit creative. Some have very typical names like Jon or Steven, and others have less common names like Spark, LeRou, and Queenie. One high-ranking manager I know uses the name "Handsome." Awesome! But the first time I addressed him in English, I sensed a touch of inner tension when I said, "Hello, Handsome" to another man. That's just not my normal style, in spite of whatever allegations might be out there.

Rather often I encounter names that might benefit from some feedback from native English speakers, but that's just my opinion. The photo below is from some slates at a Buddhist temple in eastern Korea, where some friends wrote their names for good luck (and a small fee to the temple). Cute!
Click to enlarge:
Choosing a new name for oneself is a fun thing. Usually, though, names are assigned by others. My Chinese name, 林哲甫, for example, was given to me by a sweet Latter-day Saint woman from Taiwan when I took some Mandarin classes at BYU long ago. It's a name that raises eyebrows and elicits positive commentary from the local Chinese when they see it for they can tell it's not a normal name for foreigners, but was given by someone with a deep understanding of Chinese culture. My teacher went home and pondered over an evening, she said, before she selected the name. It's actually been a blessing to me over here, decades later.

One of the interesting aspects of the Bible is the giving of new names to people. This practice is often associated with entering into a covenant with God. Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, and Saul became Paul after his conversion. There is also the enigmatic verse in Revelation 2:17, that says "To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows except him who receives it." This personal new name makes sense for those familiar with crown jewels of the Restoration found in the marvelous LDS Temple, a sacred place where covenants are made to follow God and Jesus Christ. Just as a newborn baby is given a name, so those who enter into the covenants of life can receive a new name. I don't understand its future importance, just as much of the book of Revelation and the mysteries of the Gospel are beyond me, but I like the idea of receiving a new name as part of entering into the covenants of the Temple that help us more fully be born again in Christ. It's a cool and ancient concept, and, like my Chinese name, something that has been helpful to me in my life in ways I can't explain here. Don't take this little part of LDS culture for granted. There are some deep and beautiful aspects to the LDS Temple ceremony and to the LDS experience, if we'll let the Lord reveal insights to us along the way.

8 comments:

Bookslinger said...

I have to admit, I always snicker when I see "Pu-Pu Platter" on the menu.

Bookslinger said...

Jeff, I went to Babelfish.com and they could not translate your name. 林哲甫

Bookslinger said...

Hmmm. But babelfish.yahoo.com could translate it.

ah-hah #2. If you put a space between the 2nd and 3rd character, thusly, 林 哲甫, then both places can translate it.

Lin Zhefu

Papa D said...

I agree, Jeff, that the new name ritual is beautiful and meaningful.

Michaela Stephens said...

But what does Lin Zhefu mean?

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Asking how to translate a Chinese name often is asking the wrong question. They aren't meant for translation in many cases, at least not simple, direct translation, though there is a message or intent behind the name in the names Chinese people receive, not necessarily foreigners.

Lin is the surname. It means forest.

Zhe means philosophy or wise.

Fu is a tough one. It's not used much for meaning but more for names, though it sometimes is used to mean man or father (I think substituting for a more common fu that means father) and sometimes in classical Chinese to mean "just now" or "barely". But it's primary association now is with the name of a great Tang dynasty poet, Du Fu (杜甫).

So putting it all together, you could say that Lin Zhe Fu basically means "Bubba."

Bookslinger said...

Here's my take:

Lin = Lindsay.

Zhefu = Jeff.

"Zh" sounds like "J".

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