Q&A: The way I spell my name in Korean

HeJin asked: Just out of curiosity, why didn’t you transliterate your name as 아르차나?

I actually answered this question way back in 2014 when HeJin first asked it on my About page. Since then, a lot more people have been curious about how I transliterate my name in Korean, so I figured I’d write a post about it.

So why 알차나 and not 아르차나? Initially this just had to do with the way my name is pronounced (‘AR-chuh-naa’).

I’ve gone a good portion of my life without correcting people who have grossly mispronounced my name; adding the extra 르 syllable honestly felt like that. It deviated too far from my name’s original sound. My language partner from years ago was the one who first suggested transliterating my name as 알차나.  Somehow, I’m less bothered that the ㄹ in 알차나 has a more l-like sound than an r-like sound than I am by 아르차나 having an extra syllable. (I write my name アーチャナ instead of アルチャナ in Japanese for the same reason.)

Recently, I discovered another advantage of this spelling. My Korean acquaintances, who all struggle to remember my name, instantly grasp it when I write it out in Hangeul as 알차나. Since each syllable block could correspond to a Hanja character, a few of these acquaintances have created their own (hilarious) Korean mnemonic for my name and have come up with an overall meaning for it based on what the syllables could mean. Given that 르 doesn’t have a standalone meaning, the alternative spelling wouldn’t have the same effect.

For example, one of my Korean acquaintances suggested 알차나 could mean ‘Is it filled with egg?’ In this case, 알(卵) (egg); the verb 차다 (to be filled with); and the question ending -나. When I heard that I was a bit like… ummm??

Another person suggested it was better off as conjugation of the verb 알찬다 (to be productive or fruitful). I liked that one better.

On a related note, many of my language blogger friends also know me by my online nickname 차나; I’m quite all right with that too. In fact, my online persona in many places, chanamu(u), is a transliteration of the word 차나무 (‘tea plant’) and a play on that nickname as well.

image credit: Petityul


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