Adam Rice

My life and the world around me

Translate this!

Fellow translators of Japanese know that personal names are all but impossible to translate with certainty unless you can ask the person who owns the name how they prefer to have it romanized. When I’m translating a scientific paper (as I am now), the problem is acute, since there is usually a bibliography packed with Japanese names, but these names can often be tracked down, as the authors occasionally have their own web pages, or have been published before in English. So I spend a lot of time googling for their papers and their names.

One citation in my current job has eight names to track down. Ouch. I googled all the surnames together in the hopes that I’d find some bilingual reference with their names. I did not, but I did find a long listing of papers that included the one I’m looking at. Google helpfully offered to translate the page for me. The results for the names in question are interesting and amusing:

汐 promontory positive, increase mountain reason, Kazuhiro Yamamoto, Hiroshi Kondo 也, Doi 玲 child, Ono Megumi child and Ken under village, Ogasawara Masafumi

1 Comment

  1. As you know, I translated scientific papers for over a decade, and got to be very good at reading J names. Now that I do mostly patents, and don’t have to worry about applicant names etc, I’m pretty rusty.

    You probably know about it, but O’Neill’s _Japanese Names_ really is quite excellent, for given names, surnames, place names, and also historical names. Of course because many names have more than one possible reading, your Googling technique is often the only way to be sure.

    BTW I have heard that the J surname with the most possible readings is 神戸. In addition to reading it like the port city, Kobe, it can also be read Kanbe (I once knew a Kanbe who wrote his name this way), Godo, Kodo, Kando, Kamito, Shinbe, Shinto. O’Neill doesn’t give these last three readings.

    Then there are *really* off-the-wall readings that take even the Japanese by surprise. 東海林 (higashi-umi-hayashi) can be read either Tokairin (as expected), or Shoji (…huh?).

    Sorry if the kanji are moji-bake’d….

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