In a Name

In some  reading completely unrelated to last month’s Monday Project theme, I came across this article on onomastics. It’s funny to think that the way in which we organise people names now is not how it’s always been, and it’s not even how it is in all the cultures that exist on this planet right now. Maiden names, at least in the way we think about them, are mostly a Western society concern.

I remember writing an essay for uni a few years ago (well, okay, probably five years ago) for a subject called something like ‘Mass Media in Asia’ and getting very confused about how to correctly site a Chinese academic. Which of the names on the page was his family name, and which was his given name? I know that in a lot of Asian countries the order in which those names appear is different, and I was concerned about committing some kind of citation faux pas, especially because my tutor was Chinese. I probably should have been more concerned about getting the essay written, really, but that’s another story.

I ended up emailing the tutor to ask. He was helpful and kind in his response — but he probably thought it was hilarious.

I’m not sure I have a point here, but I have a feeling that this theme will continue to run around in my head, and I might find myself reading more about anthroponomy than is probably healthy.

I’m being a little lazy, so I’ve also posted this on themondayproject.com.

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One thought on “In a Name

  1. Vietnamese names are pretty simple. Everything’s backwards. So if I introduced myself in Vietnam, I would be ‘Nguyen-Thuy-Linh’. Nguyen = surname; Thuy-Linh = given name. Linh = shorterned version.

    Mum uses her maiden name. It confuses a lot of people.

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