波蘭 (Traditional Chin. characters) / 波兰 (Simplified Chin. characters) bōlán / bolan is a syllable by syllable rendition of “Poland”. Nobody pays attention to the meaning of the individual characters: they are commonly used to stand for foreign syllables. Thus, 斯里蘭卡 Sīlǐlánkǎ / Syliilankaa stands for Sri Lanka, and 約翰·蘭波 Yuēhàn·Lán bō = John Rambo.

(1) The “b” in bō / bo stands for an unaspirated /p/

(2) The “n” at the end of lán / lan stands for the -nd in Poland: Modern Mandarin phonology does not allow for consonant clusters, so they are either ignored (-nd → -n) or replaced with multiple syllables, one for each consonant. An extreme example is the single syllable surname (Sherlock) Holmes, which is rendered as FOUR syllables: 福爾摩斯 Fú’ěrmósī / Fwueelmosy.


The PRCand the ROC have their own independent criteria for choosing Chinese characters #or foreign names. Thus, in Putonghua (PRC Mandarin) “Poland” 波蘭 spelled backwards is “Rambo” 蘭波. In the ROC, 蘭 is usually reserved for female names.

Image Credit

John_Rambo–CC–BY-SA Yoni S.Hamenahem (Chinese characters + Bopomofo + GR Tonal Spelling)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Explore More

People who learned Chinese as a second language, how did you do it?

August 11, 2023 0 Comments 0 tags

I studied it for four hours daily for one year, then I went to Chinese-language high school and graduated from high school (three years) where the whole curriculum was in

Why do the Chinese have so many words with double meanings?

July 23, 2023 0 Comments 0 tags

This question is either supremely ignorant or downright malicious. Okay, everybody likes to make themselves feel superior by sneering at China, yes, yes, you are amazing, now do you feel

Can a Chinese character have more than one meaning?

April 8, 2023 0 Comments 0 tags

Yes, it could be. As a matter of the fact, lots of Chinese characters have multiple meanings. Here is an example. The Chinese character 云, or yún in Pinyin, has