Philip Newton (pne) wrote,
Philip Newton

Baraku Oobama

I wonder what Barack Obama's name would be in Japanese... the family name just screams to be Japonified, and 大浜 seems like an obvious enough rendering (to be read "Ōbama"). And that name even exists as a surname, according to ENAMDICT! (And as a placename, which can also be read "Ōhama".)

Not quite so sure about the given name, though ENAMDICT lists 馬楽 for "Baraku" as a "given name, as-yet not classified by sex". So, 大浜馬楽?

(Before I looked it up, the first thing that came to my mind was 馬駱. "Horse camel"?), after looking him up in the Japanese Wikipedia, I was pointed to 小浜, which is a placename (for example, in Fukui or, formerly, in Nagasaki) and surname and is read "Obama", which is even closer. (Also "Ohama" or "Kohama" or "Kobama".)

Obama, Fukui, in particular, apparently took advantage of this similarity in names; see the WP article, for example.

I'm also curious about the etymology of his given name. Is it Semitic, and if so, is it from the root b-r-q "lightning" like the biblical prophet Barak, or from b-r-k "blessing"? (Hebrew Wikipedia uses the "q" spelling for his name, but that may not mean much, since I believe that's the most common letter to represent [k] in foreign loanwords, given that /k/ is pronounced [x] in some positions. Arabic Wikipedia uses "k", but that also need not mean much.)

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