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I've been doing a lot of reading up about the three kingdoms warlord era of China, and Cao Cao stuck out to me as an interesting name. After some research I found that the words in Chinese are different, and there is a slight pronunciation difference. Cao Cao's given name (操) apparently roughly means "virtuous conduct", although it looks as though the character could also translate to the slang form to mean "f*ck," it can be assumed this wasn't the intention of his parents in ancient China, and the general consensus from that Wikipedia discussion confirms this. The other thing I gained from that discussion was that the family name Cao (曹) really has no meaning and stems from the state of Cao, but because the family background of Cao Cao's father is very hazy, the connection to the first prominent person to bear the name Cao (Cao Can) is iffy, but the two families are probably connected. The worrying thing from that Wikipedia discussion is the lack of citations, so I was hoping to affirm the points that were in there.

The other question I have is whether or not there was any recorded or reasonably theorized reason of why he would have been named Cao (操). The other part to this is whether or not anything addresses the similarity between his two names. I have absolutely no idea if there is a reasonable answer to the question, but I'm also just interested to hear theories based on whatever evidence we do have, preferably with more citations than on the Wikipedia discussion page.

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    Please consider that they only become similar in modern Putonghua. Some centuries after his lifetime, in Middle Chinese, his surname was *dzaw while name was tshaw-h (Departing Tone); thus, they not only differed in tone (as now) but in initial consonants as well, and, as they do not rhyme (level vs. non-level), perhaps would not considered to me similar at all! – Alexander Z. May 24 at 7:34
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    In fact, strictly to say, he spoke later Han language, and, even more explicit, they were dzou vs. tshau, that is, even rimes were mismatched. That is, probably the very thesis that they were close during his own lifetime is misguided? – Alexander Z. May 24 at 7:42
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    @AlexanderZ. 郎朗 says that when we look at just melody and rhythm plus your comment, then we have enough for an answer. – LangLangC May 24 at 9:57
  • I'm not sure about ancient times, but repeating a word in Chinese can be diminutive. – axsvl77 May 24 at 11:27

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