Mei-O's Name and Birthday(s)

Mei-O's Name

Lo2 Mei3 O2   (To see what the superscript numbers mean, click here.)

Actually, Mei-O's name is not really pronounced Mayo, as in the short form of 'mayonnaise'. The actual pronunciation of the second syllable (indicated by the 'O', the rightmost character in her Chinese name above, the leftmost character being her surname Lo2) is hard to render in English. The English spelling of her name is based on the very old Wade-Giles system of romanizing Chinese words which originated in the mid- to late 1800s. The Wade-Giles spelling was given to her by the U.S. Government when we were married in Taiwan. Because of the difficulty in rendering the actual pronunciation into English (the 'O' is probably closer to the initial vowel sound in early), we just went with the simpler Mayo pronunciation, since it was much easier for Americans to get right and remember (especially since moving to Rochester, Minnesota, home of the Mayo Clinic!). Moreover, Mei-O is a much more aesthetically pleasing spelling than the alternative, albeit a bit more accurate, May-Uhnote.

The name Mei-O is made up of two Chinese words, (mei3), a very common first character in Chinese female names meaning beautiful, and (e2), a much more seldom used character, also meaning beautiful, but taken from the name of a mythological figure, Chang'e, (嫦娥) who lived on the moon. (This link will take you to several different versions of the story of Chang'e.)

So why did Mei-O's mother name her after this mythological figure? Mei-O was born on the eve of the holiday which honors Chang'e, the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month (usually in mid- or late September on our Western calendar). Her mom actually got the name from a fortune-teller she consulted just after Mei-O was born who felt it fit the auspicious timing of her birth. That's how things were done in those days.

Those of you who know us have undoubtedly heard me call Mei-O by another name, roughly pronounced Ming-aw. This is her Taiwanese name which is what she has been called all of her life, having been raised in a Taiwanese family, growing up speaking Taiwanese (a southern Chinese dialect spoken as the primary language by non-Mainlander Chinese in Taiwan). Somewhere along the line early in our relationship I picked it up, and it stuck.

One other coincidental, interesting fact: Mei-O's surname is also the Chinese name given to the city of Rochester, Minnesota (where we currently live): 羅城.

Mei-O's Birthday(s)

When Mei-O was born in Taiwan on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival (August 14th on the lunar calendar), it was September 25th on the Julian (Western) calendar. To officially register her birth, her mother had to go down to the local court house and have her name added to the family record. It wasn't until several weeks after she was born that her mother actually got down to the court house, and when the clerk entered the birth date, he entered it as October 10th (a major holiday in Taiwan, their Independence Day, similar to our July 4th). So now, Mei-O has three birthdays: on the evening before the Mid-Autumn Festival (August 14th on the lunar calendar), September 25th (her real birthday, the one we actually celebrate), and October 10th, her official birthday, the one on her driver's license, passport, etc.