What is in a name?

I am having a tough time getting the picture to look right, but you guys get the idea.

This is a simple worksheet of what to call the people in your family in Asia. In the U.S. everybody is just Aunt “So and So” and Uncle “John.” Grandma and Grandpa might be differentiated by first names, but both sets are still Grandma and Grandpa. Not so in Taiwan. Here there is a specific name for each member in the family depending on which side (mother or father) they come from.

If you put my daughter G in the middle she would be the “zi ji” (or yourself). Brothers and sisters are named according to being male or female and if they are older are younger than you. Hence an older brother is “Ge Ge” and a younger sister is “Mei Mei” (note: all young girls you encounter are typically called Mei Mei being a sweet name for “lil sister”). “Biao’s” are cousins and you need to specify. G’s cousin is a younger (than her) boy so he would be “Biao Di”.

Going up the chain you get “BaBa’s” side and “MaMa’s” side. Since “MaMa” technically “entered” the family, she is the foreign one and hence Grandma and Grandpa are called “Wai Bo” (sometimes Po?) and “Wai Gong” where “Wai” means foreign. Even our Aunt MB gets a raw deal being called “Jiu Ma” or the wife of the outsider’s brother.

The father’s side is a lil nicer with “Gu Gu” and “Ye Ye”. Maybe this is where the Beatles song came from? “She loves you Ye Ye???” Just don’t mispronounce “Nai Nai” for “Nei Nei” or you will end up calling Grandma “old Boobies” (I know it still works, but still).

Now imagine a family reunion where each person is called a different name depending on their relationship with the person doing the calling. For this reason when games are played, players usually have to choose yet another name that they will be called for the duration of the game. It just would not work if everyone was shouting out a different name for the same person. With all this confusion over who you call what I am starting to see why there was a one child policy.

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