Here in Japan, I’m often reminded of Butch in Pulp Fiction talking about how American names don’t mean anything. Japanese names are made up of Chinese characters, each of which has a meaning.
I imagine that it must be pretty tough picking names as a Japanese parent – they don’t just need to sound good, they also need to mean something nice. In fairness, I think they interpret meanings a little more loosely than us, though; one of my teachers has a name which translates to English as “Graceful Vegetable”.
Given a non-Japanese name like David, you can work backwards and see what combinations of Chinese characters will fit the sounds in the name. So, Graceful Vegetable and I once tried to find some good characters to fit my name. Unfortunately, the best we could come up with is this:
It means: Exit, Well, Person. Roughly: “The person who comes out of the well”. Hmmm. The original Hebrew meaning of David is Beloved, so I think I’ll stick with that.