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Write Your Name In Japanese
April 18, 2011 9:50 PM   Subscribe

ヘヤ メタフィテレ! ヰテ ヨウ ナメ イン ジャパネセ!

Other resources you might like to try if you have problems with getting your name done up properly in the main link.

Your Name in Japanese
Japanese Name Translator

Not being a native Japanese speaker/writer myself, I'm certain someone more familiar with the language will come along shortly to say how each of these tools got something wrong somehow. They probably did. However they're still kind of neat! And besides, this two part article on how to write your name in Japanese will probably teach you how to do it right (if you're really interested in doing this).
posted by Effigy2000 (50 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interestingly, both sites wrote my name differently in katakana, one site wrote it how I like it to be written, and the other like the standard writing. Random cultural sidenote, translating your name into Kanji seemed to be okay in China (my colleague/Chinese language exchange partner gave me a name that essentially read 'good fortune' for the first name, then 'not really' to match my last name), but it's met with a pretty solid eye-roll in Japan.

And, yeah, konnitiwa? Gah. I live in Chiba, not Tiba.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:00 PM on April 18, 2011


this is the first time i've seen the ヰ character. this sound is not used in modern japanese. not really off to a good start.
posted by mexican at 10:01 PM on April 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'll confess I had to google this one which we did not cover in college-level Japanese: ヰ is obsolete and shouldn't really be used, I think.....
posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 10:02 PM on April 18, 2011


ugh...
posted by nightchrome at 10:09 PM on April 18, 2011


Transliteration:

he-ya me-ta-fi-te-re! wi-te-yo-oo-na-me-in-ja-pa-ne-se!

Translation:

nonsense
posted by jet_manifesto at 10:12 PM on April 18, 2011


someone more familiar with the language will come along shortly to say how each of these tools got something wrong somehow
Only took 19 minutes.
posted by unliteral at 10:13 PM on April 18, 2011


かわいいです!
[ハンバーガー]
posted by lumensimus at 10:14 PM on April 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


got something wrong somehow

Yeah, and translating c'est la vie into English as

say, lay bee?

is 'wrong somehow', too...
posted by jet_manifesto at 10:18 PM on April 18, 2011


alas, my name transliterates into 'dullard' in Japanese.

for extra insult, in Japanese katakana is used like bolding so it reads super-dullard.

But Jim Breen is my hero. If his dictionary work didn't exist someone else would have to do it.
posted by mokuba at 10:21 PM on April 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


¡S O C K S!
posted by carsonb at 10:21 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


About my name in Japanese:

My name is "Nevin" (sounds like "Kevin"). When I first arrived in Japan, like every good young foreigner I went to the local "international center" (every burg of more than 25,000 people has one of these) and signed up for Japanese lessons.

Japanese lessons are usually taught by prim and proper ladies above the age of 55. They would invite us foreigners over for tea parties, and we'd learn things like flower-arranging (which can actually be pretty kickass) and how to write "music", "spring" and "peace" in brush calligraphy. We foreigners were also taught how to speak like prim and proper bourgeois middle-class ladies; it's pretty amusing to see a 230-pound former linebacker demurely covering his mouth and softly chuckling "ho ho ho" when laughing.

Anyway, the ladies always try to name the foreign arrivals. I got the name "音勉”, or "NEBEN", which means "Sound of Study", a very proper name.

Unfortunately, as one of my male Japanese friends pointed out, NEBEN sounds one hell of a lot like another "neben", 寝便: to shit your bed at night.

He was gracious enough to suggest another name: NEBIN:寝瓶. This means "Sleeping Bottle". I've had this name for nearly 20 years now. It's the best gift any friend has ever given me.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:30 PM on April 18, 2011 [22 favorites]


write your name in japanese
write it in croatian
write your name beneath the sea
for reading by crustaceans
write it on the alley wall
write it on a tree
and on a check for 20 grand
then give the check to me
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:34 PM on April 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


ヰ = wtf
posted by gen at 10:37 PM on April 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why would I want to translate my name into Japanese? Translating it into English is difficult enough. Depending on just how I want to fiddle with the Germanic and Hebraic terms, I am either "Judge of the height of God's wickedness" or "Divine estimator of the tallness of shrubberies". Compared to that, how can some other language's interpretation of the syllables compete?

(Hm... actually, if somebody wants to try to compete, go right ahead with my real name, though I doubt you'll get anything better out of it...)
posted by DataPacRat at 10:40 PM on April 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why would I want to translate my name into Japanese? Translating it into English is difficult enough.

Yeah, I got that problem with my real name too. If I translate it out of relatively modern gaelic I get something like "Dark Stranger, Son of the Stranger". But if I take it just a little further back, and translate sense for sense rather than word for word, I get "That Danish Bastard."
posted by Ahab at 11:06 PM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


hey guys i got one of them fonts that lets me write my name in asian
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:23 PM on April 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


All of this talk of translation would make a lot of sense if this wasn't a (flawed) transliteration tool.
posted by lumensimus at 11:43 PM on April 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


A guy I know has this theory that almost any name, when translated into English, can be arranged into something that sounds as if it's come out of a bad fantasy novel (provided the translation hasn't been lost in the annals of time).

Needless to say, I was skeptical. "What about...Charles Dickens?"

A pause. He warned me that he would try his best despite the unreliability of information (presumably he'd found some site of name etymologies), and then he was gone for perhaps five minutes. "Freeman Kingschild," he finally responded.

Well, that was fantasy-ish. "James Monroe?" I asked.

A slightly longer pause. "Ouster Baldred."

"...Eddie Izzard?"

"Gladguard Icebattle. Or Gladgaurd Icehard. Maybe Gladguard Goat. Not sure."

My skepticism was still unabated. "Now, wait a minute," I said. "I don't think I buy it, that all these names can be translated so succinctly. What about 'Nicholas'? That means 'victory of the people', doesn't it?" I'd read that in a book somewhere. "And my surname means something like 'from the place of the water welling'. There's no way you can wrangle those into something out of a fantasy novel."

"Ah," my friend said. "You mean 'Allswin Springlander'."
posted by KChasm at 11:53 PM on April 18, 2011 [17 favorites]


On the bright side, a lot of people learned about ヰ today. Next stop: ゑ!
posted by No-sword at 12:32 AM on April 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


KChasm, that's so much cooler than figuring out your porn name. A little googling shows I've got the mighty name of Fallriver Godtower. fuck yeah
posted by Rhaomi at 12:37 AM on April 19, 2011


About my name in Japanese...

Why in the world aren't you just writing your name in katakana?
posted by reductiondesign at 12:39 AM on April 19, 2011


yeah katanas are the coolest
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:03 AM on April 19, 2011


About my name in Japanese...

Why in the world aren't you just writing your name in katakana?


Certain parts of Japanese bureaucracy basically require you to have a kanji name, as I understand it. This matters more for people trying to settle in Japan I guess. For example, when you have to sign things by hanko, you might get away with a hanko with your name in katakana (what I have), but for some things they will rebuff you without a kanji one.
posted by theyexpectresults at 2:08 AM on April 19, 2011


Please please please tell me when someone gets a tattoo based on these translations.
posted by hawkeye at 2:08 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, explanation of hanko.
posted by theyexpectresults at 2:09 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


All of this talk of translation would make a lot of sense if this wasn't a (flawed) transliteration tool.

my name's transliterated
it used to be just "samm"
but now, well, it's all different
and i don't know who i am
the letters look like chicken scratch
and i'm thinking i just might
go drink up lots of sake
until my name looks right
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:23 AM on April 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


theyexpectresults, actually, life without a kanji name, while occasionally troublesome (especially trying to explain it over the phone) is entirely possible. Just ask the ever-growing number of Japanese people in international marriages who adopt their partner's name. My wife took my non-Japanese name, and we have two hankos, one for the official stuff, one for the every day nonsense. It did take a little doing, trying to find a place that could fit the five katakana characters for my family name onto a hanko (most places do 4 characters, tops evidently). Of course, the bloom wore off a bit for my wife when she realized that she'd have to explain how to write our name every time she had to talk to anyone over the phone. "No, no, it's ooih-ru-ga-su."
posted by Ghidorah at 2:45 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


美雁 (migan) is the kanji I chose for my hanko. Translates to "beautiful wild goose" which I think was the most appropriate choice really.
posted by gomichild at 3:21 AM on April 19, 2011


My name is Emmalee. When I first got to Japan, Nova had already made me a hanko with my name in katakana - エマリー (Emarii). This suited me just fine - it fit with how I'd been writing my name in my Japanese classes already.

But I still went and chose kanji for my name because it was fun. Also, I'd had a number of nice obaasans and ojiisans decide my name kanji for me, and I never liked the ones they chose.

So I went from being 絵真里 (picture-truth-origin) to 笑魔悧 (smiling-demon-clever).

My name is still officially written in katakana. My bank contract, my apartment contract, everything official gets my hanko. But when I'm writing emails or anything casual like that, I like to use my kanji because it amuses me and my friends.

Particuarly as the ma kanji I chose (魔) isn't approved for use in names.
posted by emmling at 5:04 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really like my given name (Anna) in kanji/Chinese – its pronunciation works in both, though the second character is uncommon: 安娜  Keep in mind that the Hebrew "Hannah" means "grace; favour; graced/favoured by God" (the mother of the prophet Samuel, barren, had asked to be graced with a child).

安 "an" means "peace"; "quiet, peaceful, calm"
娜 "na" means "tender, graceful"
Both characters share the radical 女 "woman". The two characters together, I've been told by Chinese and Japanese speakers alike, can mean "graceful" (though again, it's not a common combination in either language).

How awesome is it that a name (as pronounced, anyway, obviously there's no historical background in Chinese/Japanese) means the same thing in such different languages? Not only does it travel well in Occidental countries, it even means something neat and is easy to pronounce in Japan and China. 凄いですね ^_^

フラウラは​​苺です ! (苺はおいしいですねええ)
posted by fraula at 5:19 AM on April 19, 2011


If there's anywhere in Japan where kanji is required, I've yet to find it. I have a bank account, a home, a mortgage, a job, a health insurance card, and pretty much everything else you would imagine your mid-30's person to have, and I've never needed kanji.

Ok, well, ONCE. I signed up for an ISP, back when the Internet was still new, and the online form required that I fill out my name. The form would not accept English, hiragana, or katakana for surnames, only kanji. I filled out a random reading of my name, and then a few days later someone from the company called and said 'thank you for applying, but your name doesn't match your bank account name'. I pointed out that it's because their online form required kanji, and my name doesn't have any. They apologized profusely, and fixed the name in their records. That was years ago, and I've not seen any place since then that required kanji.
posted by Bugbread at 5:42 AM on April 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jim Breen! *swoon* His site was my go-to dictionary when I was studying Japanese. Multi-radical kanji lookup? Hells yes!
posted by Vibrissa at 5:48 AM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


My first name is easy enough to get a meaning from. Most baby name books give the meaning as "of the forest". My art teacher translated it into Korean more or less as "pretty trees", if I recall correctly. I have yet to encounter a meaning for my middle name (my grandmother's surname), so that's a lost cause, and I'm pretty sure my surname was either shortened or made up entirely two generations ago, but, if you ignore that, it seems to have something to do with red or being a redhead's kid, or something. This gives me a lovely fantasy name of "Redforest" I guess.

Sadly, my first name transliterates really badly into Japanese. I tend to get a lot of different suggestions along the lines of "sheeroobeea" which just isn't all that close. If I skip a problematic letter and deal with a "sh" when I should have a "s" I get シヴィア which is probably good enough. (or シヴィアルディ with my surname - my middle name's barely pronounceable in English - none of its syllables exist as options in Japanese.)
posted by Karmakaze at 5:55 AM on April 19, 2011


On the bright side, a lot of people learned about ヰ today. Next stop: ゑ!

Don't let's forget about ヱ (the katakana version of ゑ) without which you cannot accurately write the word ヱビスビール. "エビス" is just lacking a certain... ジュ・ヌ・セ・クヮ.

ゐ〜〜〜〜〜
posted by armage at 7:01 AM on April 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Certain parts of Japanese bureaucracy basically require you to have a kanji name, as I understand it. This matters more for people trying to settle in Japan I guess.

Actually, if you naturalize in Japan you're only required to use Japanese characters in your name (i.e. hiragana, katakana, or kanji). Roman characters, Hangul, and Chinese characters without jōyō kanji equivalents are not allowed, AFAIK.

If you don't naturalize and are simply a resident, you can use what you like -- but registered inkan and other official documents use the Japanese equivalent of your name as above.
posted by armage at 7:07 AM on April 19, 2011


I'd like to tell you the Japanese name that my first language partner gave me でも俺の本名が明らかになるならぶっ殺すぞ!

冗談だよ I'm not really sure if that was even proper Japanese...or, rather, I am sure it is improper Japanese, but not sure if it is properly improper.

And usually I just go by 「デイブ」
posted by dubitable at 7:26 AM on April 19, 2011


So as Chinese students coming to the West often choose a 'Western' name, it's common for names to be translated the other way? (I always wondered whether the Western names were equivalent, like Christopher/Cristobal, or just chosen because they sounded nice.)

I have a name which is really difficult to pronounce in some languages thanks to the hard G and the double L. My Spanish conversation partner used to call me 'jeee-yan'. Asian kids at school used to call me 'Juliyan' - presumably they aren't common sounds in Urdu either. Even in the US, the hard G is pretty common. I wonder whether I'd go dfor a name change if I emigrated, just to make life easier for everyone.
posted by mippy at 7:27 AM on April 19, 2011


(I mean, the different hard G. Ack.)
posted by mippy at 7:27 AM on April 19, 2011


This is not really the best introduction to Jim Breen's work. He really is a titan in the world of computerized Japanese dictionaries, having created the first electronic EN-JA dictionary to be widely used among English speaker; it also laid the template for many others to follow (in DE-JA, FR-JA, RU-JA, etc). The dictionary program I use every day relies on the products of his work.

Lucky for me, my name transliterates into Japanese easily enough, although some Japanese people are taken aback by my surname. When I took a semester of Chinese, the teacher assigned us all names in Chinese characters, and mine was 米安徳, which I liked pretty well.
posted by adamrice at 7:34 AM on April 19, 2011


So as Chinese students coming to the West often choose a 'Western' name, it's common for names to be translated the other way?

All I can answer to that is, it is difficult for Japanese in particular to say many sounds that are present in English (and probably many other languages too, but I can only speak for English), so my first name, which is "Dave," I usually transliterate as 「デイブ」("day-ee-boo," basically) for Japanese ("debito" is probably more common, but I'm not a "debito," you know?). The "v" in my name, for example, doesn't exactly exist in Japanese, although they do use "ヴィ" and variations which I can't say right because it confuses me too much trying to figure out how Japanese say something that they don't/can't actually say but which I can say and therefore, I can't. Or something like that.

But I haven't really ever heard of Japanese giving Westerners names like "Tomoko" or "Sousuke" or whatever because they couldn't say "Sara" or "John." They just change the pronunciation to fit Japanese, as far as I know.

Can't speak for how Chinese folks do it though.

That also reminds me of when I had an Indian friend named "Bharat," and I realized after hanging out with him for a year or so that I was missing the whole "h" part of his name, and furthermore, I could not for the life of me say it. I felt bad, but he was pretty cool about it luckily (obviously, if he continued to hang out with me without making a big deal out of it).
posted by dubitable at 7:34 AM on April 19, 2011


My coworkers gave me a kanji name when I first arrived so I could get a hanko for the bank acct, but that whole schtick is laughable, and students would giggle when one of the office staff would show them my "kanji name". That bank (Mitsubishi, before the first of several mergers) was so fucked up they would refuse to process transactions when I wrote my middle initial as "F." instead of "エフ" ("efu").

I got rid of that stupid hanko and alias, and have been just フェリー・ニルス since. I just have to specify "fune no ferry" ("That's ferry as in "boat") to explain the family name, and Japanese syllabary being so precise, people can pronounce "nirusu" more reliably than westerners can pronounce "Nils." I have never needed to have kanji for my name in any official capacity. They gave us no hassle at the ward office in Kyoto over giving my son a middle name. Also, I can take out official copies of my in-laws' family register ("koseki") on my own without a Japanese family member.
Ha, I can also translate "bugbread" much better than their stupid computer can.
posted by planetkyoto at 8:08 AM on April 19, 2011


So as Chinese students coming to the West often choose a 'Western' name, it's common for names to be translated the other way?

In my Japanese class, we all used the katakana versions of our real names. In Chinese, the professors all gave us Chinese names with hanzi (as a side note, I kind of love my Chinese name; it sounds a lot like my real name, and it incorporates the kanji that my middle name would use if I were a real Japanese person). People I met in China seemed to think it was really cute that the foreigners had Chinese names, but they also used them reasonably often to talk to/about us (especially in official contexts).
posted by Vibrissa at 9:04 AM on April 19, 2011


We weren't able to give our eldest son a middle name when we registered his birth in Tsuruga, in Japan.

I don't know why, but petty city hall bureaucrats can be pretty arrogant in Japan. So it was with great satisfaction that I was able to point out they got my son's kanji wrong on his birth announcement.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:32 AM on April 19, 2011


We have a copy of Write Your Name in Kanji and used it to have hanko made as thank-you gifts to our wedding attendants. Having grown up on stories about people designing sweater patterns with Chinese characters on them, only to discover (after knitting) that the design means "this dish is cheap yet tasty", I was very pleased when I handed one of the slips of paper to the carver, who looked at it and said "...forever beautiful, graceful. Nice." Considering the book had said it meant "eternally beautiful and elegant", that was good enough for me.
posted by Lexica at 11:39 AM on April 19, 2011


I can just imagine your satisfaction KokuRyu! We had to use Elliotmason to get around the 2 name rule. Just made it inside the character limit.
posted by gomichild at 2:07 PM on April 19, 2011


lacking a certain... ジュ・ヌ・セ・クヮ.

Who are you, Motoori Norinaga? The modern orthography is ジュ・ヌ・セ・カ.

歴史的字音仮名遣 nerd high-five!
posted by No-sword at 3:21 PM on April 19, 2011


Perhaps he's in Naha and it's just missing a certain ジュ・ヌ・セ・クヮーサー.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:01 PM on April 19, 2011


I cannot believe that I have made a bilingual pun in two languages I do not speak natively, but this is Metafilter, where such things come to pass
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:13 PM on April 19, 2011


Who are you, Motoori Norinaga? The modern orthography is ジュ・ヌ・セ・カ.

That's 鈴屋大人 to you, sir.

Actually, I've always heard "ジュ・ヌ・セ・クワ" with a large ワ, but that always read strange to me.

Perhaps he's in Naha and it's just missing a certain ジュ・ヌ・セ・クヮーサー.

でーじウイーてぃーやんや~

Disclaimer: I make no promises as to the accuracy of my 沖縄弁
posted by armage at 10:55 PM on April 20, 2011


After reading what KokuRyu wrote I now want something that will translate my name into Japanese and THEN warn me of any other similar words that could end up in me being laughed at by people who are too nice to be able to politely explain what's so funny. Seems like that would solve a great deal of embarrassment, not to mention being a bit humorous as well.

Actually that's be a good thing to have in any language. A joke on your own name is always a lot easier to handle if you see it coming - in another language anyway. I haven't googled - I wonder if that exists yet for multiple languages - "we'll check your name and save you the shame!" or something.
posted by batgrlHG at 8:36 PM on May 3, 2011


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