In 1987, Mai Van Cán and his wife, Do Thi Vân — a couple from Quang Nam province in central Vietnam — welcomed their fifth child.
Several years earlier, Vietnam had put a two-child policy in place.
So, soon after the newborn arrived, the family was fined 6,500 dong (Vietnamese currency) by the government.
Mai was upset about this — his wife’s pregnancy had been unplanned, and he had to borrow money to pay the fine. In a fit of resentment, he named the baby boy Mai Phat Sáu Nghìn Ruoi, which loosely translates to “fined six thousand five hundred” (or, more precisely, “fine of six thousand and a half”).
Here are the definitions of each component of the given name:
Over the summer my husband and I discovered a great little Vietnamese restaurant in Denver called Pho-natic. The name is a play on the word “fanatic” (pho sounds like “fuh”).
Why am I mentioning a neighborhood restaurant on my name blog? Because the woman behind the restaurant has a great story, and part of that story has to do with her name.
Oi Thi Nguyen was born in Vietnam in 1956. “Oi started working as soon as she can walk. From the rice fields to fishing boats — Oi did it all.”
Her family was in the noodle soup business. Oi also sold fish and meat — not at the local markets, but at American military bases. “It was against the law and punishable by death but Oi didn’t care.”
The U.S. pulled out of Vietnam in 1973, and Saigon fell in 1975.
In 1984, Oi tried to escape from Vietnam in an overloaded boat. It capsized at sea. The people were rescued and taken to a refugee camp in the Philippines.
Oi lived there for ten months until a letter stated that Oi Thi Nguyen was awarded to come to the United States for aiding Americans during the war. The American soldiers remembered Oi’s name and wrote people in high places to make sure she has a safe passage.
She finally made it to the U.S. in 1986.
I’m very curious about the name Oi now. What does it mean? The internet gives me various definitions for the Vietnamese word oi, depending upon the diacritics being used, but I’m not sure how Oi writes her name, so I have no way of knowing which of these definitions (if any) are correct.
Yesterday I discovered the “Asian Name Pronunciation Guide,” which was created by California State Polytechnic University (Pomona) to help its students “more accurately pronounce some common Asian first and last names.” What a cool thing for the school to make available.