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Another Election?! Relax, This One's To Name A Baby Panda

You can help select a name for the National Zoo's new panda cub.
Abby Wood
Smithsonian's National Zoo
You can help select a name for the National Zoo's new panda cub.

Fresh off Tuesday's election, another is just around the corner: The National Zoo wants you to help name its new panda cub by casting a vote at Smithsonian.com.

You can vote online (no photo identification required and the balloting continues until Nov. 22).

At NPR, we always strive to ensure that our audience is informed of the candidates — even when they're names for pandas.

The Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., has put forth five possible names for the female cub born this summer — all Chinese names, of course — so we talked to NPR's Beijing correspondent, Anthony Kuhn, for some help in understanding them:

-- Bao Bao (宝宝) (bow-BOW) — Precious, treasure. "Bao means treasure and when you say 'Bao Bao,' it usually means baby, as in 'Bao Bao's diapers need changing [or] Bao Bao is hungry,' " Anthony says.

-- Ling Hua (玲花) (ling-HWA) — Darling, delicate flower. "Ling is actually the sound you make when you plink a piece of jade," says Anthony. It also happens to be the name of a wildly popular Chinese pop singer.

-- Long Yun (龙韵) (long-YOON) — Long is the Chinese symbol for dragon and "yun" is a pleasing sound, something that rhymes. It translates roughly as "the sound of the dragon," Anthony says, which is meant to be "auspicious, not scary."

-- Mulan (木兰) (moo-LAHN) — Legendary young woman, a smart and brave Chinese warrior from the fifth century — "the legendary woman warrior who dressed as a man to join the army," Anthony says. Also, the name for the magnolia flower in China and the United States.

-- Zhen Bao (珍宝) (jen-BAO) — Treasure, valuable. "Zhen Bao is close to Bao Bao," Anthony says. "Zhen also means something precious. So, they are both very close, but it doesn't have the same meaning as baby."

The official naming ceremony at the National Zoo will take place Dec. 1 — when the cub turns 100 days old.

And, if you need a panda fix before then, here's a behind-the-scenes video shot in 2008 by NPR's David Gilkey at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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