Do not be surprised if you find yourself surrounded by men named Chia-hao (家豪) or women named Shu-fen (淑芬), because according to the latest statistics released by the Ministry of the Interior, those two names are the most popular given names for boys and girls respectively in the country.
“Chia-hao” tops the “market name” — a term commonly used in Taiwan to describe names heard repeatedly when shopping in markets — list for men, with 14,229 people having the name across the country. Chih-ming (志明) follows with 14,022, Chun-chieh (俊傑) with 12,695, Chien-hung (建宏) with 12,695 and Chun-hung (俊宏) with 11,812, the data showed.
Chih-ming was the most popular name for men in the last census statistics, released in 2010.
The women’s name Shu-fen remains the top “market name” this year, with 33,063 women in the country sharing the name, the statistics showed. Shu-hui (淑惠) follows with 30,935, Mei-ling (美玲) with 27,914, Ya-ting (雅婷) with 25,103 and Mei-hui (美惠), with 24,312 people.
While there is no clear theme discernible yet among today’s popular names, previous popular names have tended to reflect their times.
“When we break the data into decades, we can see there are different popular names for different generations and there are always social phenomena behind the popular names of each generation,” Deputy Minister of the Interior Chien Tai-lang (簡太郎) said.
“For instance, the top three most popular boys’ names in the 1930s and 1940s were Cheng-hsiung (正雄), Wu-hsiung (武雄) and Wen-hsiung (文雄), which are all names with Japanese influence, because Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule at the time,” he said.
He said that in the 1950s, popular names were Chin-tsai (進財, “making a fortune”), Jung-hua (榮華, “prosperity”) or “Tian-tsai” (添財, “adding more money”),“because it was a time of poverty and most parents hoped that their child could lead a wealthy and prosperous life.”
In the 1960s and the 1970s, popular names for boys were Chih-ming, (志明, “having a clear goal in life”), “Chih-hao” (志豪, “having a great objective in life”) and Chih-cheng (志成, “accomplishing one’s goals in life”) because with more financial stability, parents started wanting their children to achieve more, he said.
“As a middle class has been created nowadays, the most popular names for newborn boys and girls often include the word “pin” (品), which could be interpreted as ‘quality’ or ‘appreciation,’” Chien said. “This is probably because parents want their children to lead a quality life or to show appreciation to the surrounding world.”
Meanwhile, statistics for surnames released by the ministry yesterday showed Chen (陳) is the most populous surname in the country, accounting for nearly 2.6 million people, or 11.13 percent of the population. Lin (林) follows with 1.9 million people, accounting for 8.3 percent of the population, while Huang (黃) is the third most populous family name, with 1.4 million people having the family name, accounting for 6.03 percent of the population, the ministry said.
“Some parents want to avoid giving ‘market names’ to their children, but in my opinion, market names are not bad names. Rather, those are names that are popular and liked by most parents,” Chien said.
Department of Household Registration Deputy Director Su Ching-chao (蘇清朝) said that while the majority of traditional family names are composed of one or two characters, there are family names with as many as three or four characters.
“Beginning earlier this year, we’ve allowed naturalized citizens to phonetically translate their names, instead of having to have a two-to-four character name in the traditional form,” Su said. “So we’re having more diverse family names with multiple characters.”
There is one rule to follow if a naturalized citizen of Taiwan wishes to phonetically translate his or her name into characters.
“The only requirement we have is that in official documents, the family name must precede the given name to avoid confusions as different countries may have different cultures when it comes to where the surname is placed,” Su said.