Philip Newton (pne) wrote in linguaphiles,
Philip Newton
pne
linguaphiles

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You say 菲利普, I say 菲利蒲…

Today, I got a postcard from a Postcrossing user in Hong Kong and she wrote my name in Chinese for me: 菲利普.

That was nice of her, but it’s not how I’ve been writing my name in Chinese for the past 20-odd years, which is 菲利蒲.

(After all these years, I don’t remember where I got this particular spelling from, but I imagine that one of the Chinese boys at my school wrote it that way for me.)

The incident got me wondering. Is my spelling legitimate? Is this an expression of personal style, or am I simple doing it wrong? Do I get to choose the spelling of my Chinese transcription?

When I think about people with non-Latin native scripts writing their name in English, they seem to have a bit of latitude: Дмитрий might write his name as Dmitri, Dmitry, Dmitriy, or other variants, and 이정식 might be Jungshik Lee rather than Chŏngsik I (McC-R), Cengsik I (Yale), or Jeongsik I/Jeong-Sik I (RR). (I may have botched those official Romanisations.) And I don’t think such people get much flak for not using an ISO-approved transcription. (And that’s before we even start talking about Gaddafi/Khadafy/Qadhafi/….)

For fun, I had a look at what the “official” transcription would be (going by the tables linked off this Chinese Wikipedia page, which is the closest thing to an official scheme I know), and it lists 菲利普 for all three of English, German, and French. And Prince Philip’s article spells his name that way, too… except in Hong Kong, where it uses 菲臘 (see the 汉/漢 dropdown menu near the top of the article). (Go figure.)

I’ve also seen 浦 used as the third syllable in my name.

So what would be the best thing to do? Keep on spelling it the way I’ve always done? Choose the spelling that most Chinese seem to pick, whether instinctively, by convention, or however (and consider my spelling wrong)?

Tags: chinese, howdoyousay
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