A basic guide to using Asian names

152 points
1/20/1970
10 months ago
by bear_with_me

Comments


cat_plus_plus

For whatever reason, my first name is almost universally mispronounced in America. So early on, I made a decision to let it go and in fact introduce myself by how most English speakers said it. No regrets whatsoever, any time spent sorting phonetics out is time wasted not getting to substance of the matter we want to discuss. I also suspect that if I made a stink about it, many people would avoid me because I have a thing they need to deal with.

So I don't get the current trend where everyone is your majesty and god forbid someone mangles your name, your pronoun if you didn't make it obvious by your attire or didn't spell your country with a diacritical mark not found on their keyboard. You still know that it's you and that people are just relating to you in a way which is convinient to them right? Now get to what is it that you need to do together - write some Java code, or talk about your day or whatever.

10 months ago

earthboundkid

It’s a little bit of a complicated issue. On the one hand, my great-grandfather gave up using a patronym to be an American. That’s a totally normal thing, and it’s weird to complain about it. In Japan, they were often confused about which of my names was personal and which was for my family, and they never quite figured out the deal with my middle name / initial. Cultures are different, and you can’t expect everyone in one country to know everything about another.

On the other hand, some people make a big show out of not knowing how to pronounce common Indian names, and that strikes me as silly/microaggressive. Hindi is spelled phonetically in English, so it’s not very hard.

On the third hand though, Chinese names are often spelled with a Romanization that wasn’t designed for use by English speakers, so of course they can’t do it. If you want them to not mangle your name, use the Yale Romanization.

I think people want there to be a simple answer like “everyone just change your name to John Smith” or “if they can’t pronounce Xi Jinping, they’re racists” but simple answers don’t really apply. We’re all just going to muddle through the best we can.

10 months ago

OfSanguineFire

> Hindi is spelled phonetically in English

This isn’t the case. I have a formal background in linguistics and have a vague familiarity with the Indic branch of the Indo-European languages in general, and I still occasionally screw up in pronouncing Hindi (or other Indian languages’) words that are written in informal Latin transliteration. Most notably, whether the sound written <a> denotes [ə] or [aː] is often ambiguous.

10 months ago

earthboundkid

It's not ambiguous if the macrons are included, but yes, in everyday texts, the macrons are often dropped.

10 months ago

RandallBrown

> Hindi is spelled phonetically in English, so it’s not very hard.

In my experience it's extremely hard to get right. At one of my jobs pronunciation of Indian words (mostly food and names) was a fairly common topic of conversation and it was impossible for the non-Indians to get correct. To my American ear it usually sounded exactly the same (even if it wasn't me saying it) but they would always say it wasn't quite right.

10 months ago

sbehere

I think certain sounds are hard for Western speakers to pronounce, while others are easy. Specifically, Hindi (and many other Sanskrit-derived languages) distinguish between some sounds (which have correspondingly different characters in the written script) that are often indistinguishable to Western ears. And if you can't hear the difference, you are unlikely to be able to say it right.

These sounds typically come in groups of four. For example, there are 4 "T" sounds in Hindi: त थ ट ठ. If you pronounce each of these correctly, Indian ears will hear 4 distinct sounds. Western ears will typically hear the same sound 4 times. If they are listening attentively the second time around, they may be able to distinguish at most 2 different sounds, but not 4. Given this, Western speakers are unlikely to correctly pronounce a word containing one of these sounds. The good news is that even if a Western speaker has incorrect pronunciation, in the vast majority of cases native Hindi speakers would be able to understand what was meant.. so the communication still happens effectively. Furthermore, regardless of language, I like to believe that most native speakers will very much appreciate efforts to speak the language, no matter how mangled the pronunciation is.

10 months ago

meepmorp

> For example, there are 4 "T" sounds in Hindi: त थ ट ठ.

Out of curiosity, are these distinguished as alveolar vs retroflex and aspirated vs non-aspirated?

10 months ago

sbehere

Hmm, I'm not quite sure what those terms mean, but a quick search seems to suggest to me that it is a "Dental" (not alveolar) vs retroflex.

See 00:53 of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXFx3Ly_imY

In that table, त is the first column of the Dental row and थ in the second column of that same row (aspirated?). Similarly, ट is the first column of the Retroflex row and ठ is the second column of that row.

10 months ago

meepmorp

The alveolar ridge is a bit behind the upper front teeth, and sometimes people let blade of the tongue (tip plus a bit) rests against that when making a "t" vs against the teeth themselves.

But thanks - now I can read a small bit of Hindi!

10 months ago

kortex

Tldr yes. Not a Hindustani speaker but general linguistics nerd. No idea if HN can handle the IPA modifiers

- त - /t̪ə/ - voiceless dental plosive

- थ - /t̪ʰə/ - aspirated voiceless dental plosive

- ट - /ʈə/ - Voiceless retroflex plosive

- ठ - /ʈʰə/ - aspirated Voiceless retroflex plosive

t̪ - t with square bracket below is the dental plosive

ʰ - superscript h is the aspirations indicator

So there are three issues for English speakers:

A minor issue: English uses apical plosive /t/ for "t" , while Hindi and related use dental plosive /t̪/. This is a small difference in tongue placement. But these sound similar enough. The bigger issue is English lacks a retroflex plosive (tongue curls), and aspiration is non-phonemic (does not carry a meaningful distinction). English speakers typically aspirate leading plosives and don't aspirate in the middle of words. It's not that native English speakers "can't" hear a difference, it's just way more subtle and likely to be missed unless specifically listening for it.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_dental_and_alveola...

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_retroflex_plosive

10 months ago

sbehere

This is fascinating. Thank you for commenting. As an Indian living in the West, I have always wondered why/how certain differences that are stark to my ears are subtle or barely perceptible to others.

The converse is also true. For example, the way native Swedish speakers pronounce seven (sju - example pronunciations at https://forvo.com/word/sju/ ) is 1) Hard for me to say and 2) No matter how I say it, the response from Swedes is, "You said <X>; it's actually <X1>" where both <X> and <X1> sound exactly the same to me, so I don't hear the distinction they are trying to point out. I assumed the same happens to Western folks when Indians/Hindi speakers try to explain the difference between the various T sounds.

> The bigger issue is English lacks a retroflex plosive (tongue curls), and aspiration is non-phonemic (does not carry a meaningful distinction)

But English words do seem to distinguish meaningfully between what you term 'voiceless' and 'aspirated voiceless' isn't it? For example, there is a difference between 'time' and 'thyme'. Ignoring the difference between 'y' and 'i' for a moment, wouldn't both words be the "same" to English speakers if what you are saying is true? Isn't 'th' just the aspirated version of 't'? (Not contesting what you are saying, just curious to understand.)

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

rovolo

> Isn't 'th' just the aspirated version of 't'?

'th' is only an aspirated 't' for loan words in English. Most English words pronounce 'th' as the fricatives /θ/ or /ð/.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th_(digraph)

"Thyme" is odd because it used to be spelled "tyme" in Middle English (1066-1400s). I assume it was changed to 'th' to be more similar to Latin and French. Something similar happened to "island" (iland) and "isle" (ile) where a silent 's' was added to make the words closer to the Latin "insula".

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/thyme

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/isle

10 months ago

mumintrollet

> But English words do seem to distinguish meaningfully between what you term 'voiceless' and 'aspirated voiceless' isn't it? For example, there is a difference between 'time' and 'thyme'. Ignoring the difference between 'y' and 'i' for a moment, wouldn't both words be the "same" to English speakers if what you are saying is true?

Aspiration is not contrastive in English - it's impossible to find two words that differ only by aspiration. Aspirated consonants (in general American English) mainly feature in the onset of a stressed syllable (pin ['pʰɪn], potato [pə̥ˈtʰeɪɾoʊ]) as long as they're not preceded by /s/ (spin ['spɪn]). The important part is that you can determine whether or not a consonant is aspirated only by its position in the word, which is why it's an allophone - a variation of a phoneme which isn't distinctive, but still sounds different. English is my L2 so "thyme" still messes me up, I always try to pronounce it with /θ/ like the first consonant in "thigh".

How people differentiate sounds is actually very interesting. The leading theory is that infants can differentiate all human phonemes (see Jusczyk's Head turn Experiment) but starts categorizing sounds into categories based on what languages are spoken to them by 9-12 months. An interesting language is the (sadly extinct) Ubykh, which had 84 (!) phonemic consonants but only 2 or 3 distinct vowels. For example, speakers percieved /qʲ q qʷ qˤ qˤʷ/ as five different sounds, even though an English-only speaker would probably categorize all of them as just "kinda guttural".

On "sju" (/ɧʉː/) - /ɧ/ is a very odd sound in general. It doesn't really feature in any other languages, and what exactly it should be categorized as is still debated by phoneticians. It also varies a lot by region - Finland Swedes generally don't differentiate the consonants in "sju" and "köpa". So bottom line, we don't know how to pronounce it either :D

10 months ago

dragonwriter

> For example, there is a difference between 'time' and 'thyme'. Ignoring the difference between 'y' and 'i' for a moment, wouldn't both words be the "same" to English speakers if what you are saying is true?

But they are the same; both are pronounced (in traditional IPA) as /taɪm/

10 months ago

OfSanguineFire

There is no difference in pronunciation between time and thyme. Both will be pronounced with the same amount of aspiration. Why English maintains a th- spelling for some words of Greek and Latin origin instead of plain t- is a long story, but in English it makes no difference in pronunciation.

10 months ago

Keirmot

This is true even among western languages. For example, it’s basically impossible for any other western european speaker to say the Portuguese ão sound.

First thing I did in my company, which is mostly German, was to abbreviate my name, instead of having multiple people trying their hardest to call me singing I don’t care for, I chose his I’m called in that context.

10 months ago

zffr

The reason for this is probably that Hindi has a few extra sounds that just don’t exist in English.

For many consonants Hindi has 2 versions (aspirated and non-aspirated). It also has several different kinds of “d” sounds instead of just 1

10 months ago

earthboundkid

Sure, I'm just talking about getting an English equivalent pronunciation. Obviously, you can't sound identical to one language in another language, especially when one language distinguishes sounds that the other doesn't.

10 months ago

kergonath

> Hindi is spelled phonetically in English

Reading English phonetically is highly non-trivial. Each vowel can be pronounced different ways depending on factors that are not always easy to understand, particularly for non-native speakers. Same for a lot of consonants. I have no clue which accent I am supposed to have when reading romanised Hindi. East coast American? Estuary English? British RP? Australian? That could be 4 different ways of pronouncing the letter "A". Hell, I am not even sure all Hindi speakers would agree on the pronunciation of a random word because of differing accents.

> On the third hand though, Chinese names are often spelled with a Romanization that wasn’t designed for use by English speakers, so of course they can’t do it. If you want them to not mangle your name, use the Yale Romanization.

You cannot expect people to know of any specific romanisation scheme. There are different ones, used by different people and in different contexts, and that are often at odds with the spelling of well known names (like famous people or cities).

What's hilarious is people in a non-English speaking country, e.g. Germany or France, using the same romanisation as in English because it's "the correct way" and then getting the phonetics completely wrong.

> I think people want there to be a simple answer like “everyone just change your name to John Smith” or “if they can’t pronounce Xi Jinping, they’re racists” but simple answers don’t really apply. We’re all just going to muddle through the best we can.

Exactly. Ideally, it's best effort on both sides: don't be a dick if they pronounce your name wrong a couple of times and hopefully they won't be idiots either and at least try.

As a non-native English speaker who's spent quite a few years in English-speaking countries, sometimes you roll your eyes and sometimes it's funny, but it is rarely worth fighting about pronunciation issues.

10 months ago

javier_e06

I agree on the "death by thousand cuts that people with foreign names experience in the US" It reminds me of the meme that reads:

"You speak English because is the only language you know. I speak English because is the only language you know. We are not the same".

Why Starubucks insist on asking for my name just to mangle it in the cup for posterity?

10 months ago

earthboundkid

My name is a totally bog standard American name and Starbucks or whoever cannot get it right if I just say it. I have internalized this now so I always say my name followed by spelling it (fortunately, it's very short). I think it's an important bit of context that even if your name is something like "Karen" or whatever, they will mishear it and misspell it as "Cathrine". It's not a unique microaggression imposed on people with names that are uncommon in the US.

10 months ago

rigrassm

Seconding this experience.

My first name is "Ricky" and I very frequently have to correct people (mainly in drive throughs and over the phone) who repeat back to me "Britney" or "Nicky".

Very possible I just suck at enunciating my name and no one has had the heart to tell me all these years.

10 months ago

kergonath

> Why Starubucks insist on asking for my name just to mangle it in the cup for posterity?

I have an English nickname just for when I go to Starbucks abroad. It's much easier that way.

10 months ago

paulddraper

> Hindi is spelled phonetically in English

Bold of you to say it's possible to "spell phonetically in English"

10 months ago

anotheruser13

The Japanese language enters and says, "Hold my beer."

10 months ago

earthboundkid

I think the Japanese have a good system internally. They convert foreign sounds into sounds that work in their language. Of course, this bites them in the ass when they try to actually speak a foreign language, but as long as you're speaking Japanese with some foreign words mixed in, it's fine and the system works.

10 months ago

kibwen

> my great-grandfather gave up using a patronym to be an American

I'd be interested to hear the story there. When it comes to surnames, AFAIK nearly every US state lets you put basically any arbitrary assembly of English characters as the last name for a child, with even fewer restrictions on the last names for adults.

10 months ago

wrsh07

Ah but at immigration you may have been expected to spell your name and were sort of at the whim of the official (who was helping intake many people)

Lots of reasons you might not have your official name written or heard correctly

10 months ago

ssklash

I would assume the reason is not a legal one, but a cultural one, i.e. having a very obviously foreign name a few generations ago in the US might make you a target of discrimination. Changing something like "Alexei" to "Alex" would help you stand out less.

10 months ago

earthboundkid

My great grandfather emigrated as a young person and started using his father's patronym as his own last name instead of continuing to use his father's first name as his patronym. He could have kept the patronym tradition alive, but why? He was in America now, and once his kids were born, they mostly spoke English anyway.

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

lazyasciiart

My friend, in America, is named Alok. When he started school the teacher said “That’s not a name, in my class your name is Alex.”

You know that not everyone is relating to you with good intentions, right? And that their convenience isn’t the most important thing in the world?

How far does your magnanimity extend? Can people just say “hey you, shithead” and you think that shouldn’t affect the interaction?

10 months ago

crossroadsguy

It was horrible of that teacher if it was not just an icebreaker sort of light-hearted remark. Though I might find it inappropriate nonetheless.

Did Alok protest?

10 months ago

lazyasciiart

It was not an icebreaker, it was a racist asshole who was absolutely serious - he wasn't going to say some shitty foreign name, and he didn't, all year. As a 5yo? No, he did not protest. It wasn't an isolated incident anyway.

10 months ago

crossroadsguy

Oh. I didn’t take the “teacher” part seriously. I assumed it to he a professor. My bad.

10 months ago

kortex

I think there is a huge difference between mapping over to easier phonetics/phonotactics or common names in the native language, and "hey shithead". The attitude isn't great, but Alok->Alex checks out.

In Italy I'd be Michele, in Japan, I'd be Maikeru/マイケル, in Ukraine I'd probably be Mykhaylo/Михайло.

10 months ago

cat_plus_plus

Why isn't other people's convenience the most important thing in the world? Utilitarian: there are many of them, there is only one of me. Egalitarian: I don't want to me inconvenienced by accepting an alternative pronunciation of my name, so I insist on THEM being inconvenienced? Self-interest: I have some business with them, the less distractions we have getting to it the sooner/better it will get done.

I had plenty of experience with people intentionally calling me mean nicknames in my native language. There is zero overlap between this situation and someone who just wants to have a useful interaction.

10 months ago

EatingWithForks

I agree to some extent. There's definitely weirdos that purposefully use names and pronoun mangling to antagonize or ostracize someone, or put in literally no effort to respect someone. I've definitely heard/seen "your name's too hard, I'll just call you $some_arbitrary_name" like an adopted animal or something and that always struck me as a dick move.

10 months ago

jjoonathan

Yes, though the opposite also happens: people spend time struggling over your name when you don't want to be a language tutor.

10 months ago

EatingWithForks

Yes I also think that's weirdo behavior. I'm just pointing out there may very well be a reason why someone may be insisting on pronoun/name correctness-- if the other guy's being a dick about it.

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

bedobi

My name is Fred. Oddly, despite being a not uncommon name in the English speaking world, English speakers never get it. They hear and call me Brett, Brad, Frank, Greg... anything but Fred. And it's not because I have a strong uncommon accent or anything, my accent is just a generic North American accent, most people think I'm Canadian.

Like you I've also kind of given up and usually just roll with it.

I do see where you're coming from re not getting offended but not sure I agree completely with that - I do think there's room for improvement or at least making an effort with unfamiliar names. (but demanding perfection is likewise rude)

10 months ago

OfSanguineFire

> your pronoun if you didn't make it obvious by your attire

This is still a minefield, especially among teenagers and very young adults who latch on to any opportunity to assert their individuality. I have met more than one man who wears female clothing and cosmetics and adopts female mannerisms, yet still insists that he is non-binary or a “non-binary male” and so his pronouns will be “he” or “they”, and you might get chewed out for using the wrong pronoun.

10 months ago

kayodelycaon

Having dealt with this many times, it’s usually just easier to apologize and use their preferred pronouns/name. I tend to store that information in my contacts list.

On the other side, I’ve had to deal with changing my assumed name and some people just insist on using my previous assumed name. (Most people know me as Kayodé, not my legal name.) A few people forget from time to time. I can only imagine what it’s like for people who change their legal name instead keeping it for convenience.

Identity is a pain in the ass and it’s just not worth the argument.

10 months ago

Kerb_

If it helps you feel better, as a they/he, being referred to as "she" doesn't offend me so much as it might confuse people I present more masculine around. Sometimes it even feels like it validates the androgynous/feminine expression that I partake in. I can't speak for everyone though, I'm just me

10 months ago

triceratops

You know they prefer non-binary pronouns and still referred to them with "he" and "his". Maybe you're a non-native English speaker, and struggle with gender and grammar. Or maybe they have a point.

EDIT: I was wrong. See below.

10 months ago

OfSanguineFire

You’re rudely assuming an awful lot: 1) that it was me who referred to the person with an unwanted pronoun, as opposed to simply witnessing the person get upset by a third party doing so, and 2) that someone who insists on the identity of a non-binary male necessarily does not want to be referred to with the pronoun “he”. Pronoun preferences are just as diverse or contrary to others’ expectations as the labels that people apply to themselves.

10 months ago

triceratops

> that it was me who referred to the person with an unwanted pronoun

You did. In your comment.

EDIT: I'm sorry, you said their pronouns are "he or they". I misread your original post.

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

paulddraper

Was referring to your comment

> still insists that he is non-binary...so his pronouns will be...

10 months ago

paulddraper

I'm a native speaker and I struggle.

Maybe I'm slow, but "themselves" referring to a single person is weird af.

10 months ago

michaelt

> So I don't get the current trend where everyone is your majesty and god forbid someone mangles your name

The advice that people react well if you pronounce their name correctly has been widespread since, at the very least, Dale Carnegie's 1936 "How to Win Friends and Influence People" so not really a recent trend.

And of course in some situations other people's treatment of your name can have a major impact on your career - for example, if academics reference papers as "FamilyName et. al. (year)" it might benefit your career a great deal if they identify your family name correctly.

I agree that widespread chosen pronouns are a recent trend, though.

10 months ago

FalconSensei

> The advice that people react well if you pronounce their name correctly

Yes, but it doesn't mean you have to keep forcing the person to try to pronounce your name perfectly when it includes sounds that their native language doesn't have.

10 months ago

cat_plus_plus

Dale Carnegie's book is about professional success. OBVIOUSLY, if you are having a meeting with a VP about your project, it might be good to make sure you say his or her name correctly. Equally obviously, if a VP mispronounces your name, you don't make a stink and derail business side of conversation.

If we are just talking about being nice well... exactly same considerations apply. Why burden other people when you can handle the problem yourself. At least for one off interactions, if you deal with someone regularly it's Ok to mention correct pronunciation a couple of times and not make it a huge deal if they find it challenging.

10 months ago

Cthulhu_

It's a "pick your battles" kinda thing, you're not gonna get someone at Starbucks write your name down properly if it isn't something they can easily hear over the murmur of a crowd.

That said, if I were in that situation I would double down on it in anything formal - documents, graduation ceremonies, weddings, lawsuits, etc.

10 months ago

dehrmann

I have a coworker named Domas. It's pronounceable enough, but he uses Thomas (which is actually just a variation of the same name in some cultures) as his Starbucks name for...reasons.

10 months ago

paulddraper

That's pretty funny.

10 months ago

takinola

As someone with a name that is hard (impossible?) for native English speakers to pronounce, I take the same pragmatic approach as you do with one caveat. I do not mind people mispronouncing or misspelling my name as long as they at least try. I answer to any of the common mispronunciations or misspellings but would bristle if someone decided to ignore my name altogether and decide to make up a name for me.

My thinking is this is about respect and courtesy. I understand the linguistic limitations of living in a multicultural world but there is no similar limitation on our ability to try and meet other people at least some of the way.

10 months ago

fnordpiglet

My wife is from Thailand so I spend a lot of time in Thailand and with Thai people. My name is Robert which is difficult for Thai people to say. So I got by Bob with Thais despite never going by it in any other context. I don’t expect Thai people to be able to make sounds (R’s in particular) that aren’t commonly used in their language. (There is an R sound in Thai, but it has a roll, and is commonly pronounced as an L sound regardless)

Likewise we don’t expect English speakers (or Chinese Spanish French German or any other language) to be able to say her Pali name. (In Thailand they use Pali, the dead language used in the Buddhist canon, for names) She also has a Thai language nickname as all Thais do, but it’s challenging and so she decided to adopt a simpler English name among native English speakers upon arrival.

I think it’s laudable to try to pronounce names in every language across all of humanity with alacrity, but it’s unreasonable to expect everyone can and will. Certainly in my travels there’s a great deal less sensitivity to other languages and cultures than we seem to expect in the US and to some extent in parts of Europe. It’s an unreasonable standard. However in some contexts, particularly roles of trust and respect, you should always ask and try, and I think in general it’s a polite human thing to do.

But any expectation of success and remembering is completely unreasonable. In the first case, the brain just isn’t adapted to the sounds no matter how much they respect you and your culture. The second case, it’s like memorizing random nonsense words - it’s not nonsense to you, but to the person who grew up in a totally different culture and language, it certainly is. That’s not disrespectful, that’s a simple fact of reality. IMO the disrespectful thing is to be upset with humans being human - the attempt is the act of respect - anything beyond that is a measure of some intellectual capability that not everyone has.

10 months ago

paulddraper

I had a friend from Singapore whose name was Muk (pronounced muck).

That confused everyone who were sure they heard him wrong, so he went by Mark instead.

Seemed very sensible and made introductions easy.

10 months ago

monknomo

I have a european name that is difficult to pronounce for americans (even me!), and I adopted the same approach. It's mildly annoying, because my name as pronounced by americans has a lot of connotations I don't necessarily love, but I know who folks mean

coffee shops are impossible though. I have a coffee shop name, because they are even more wildly out of pocket with what they hear my name is than the median conversation

10 months ago

FalconSensei

As a Brazilian living in Canada, a coffee shop name is a must have. I tried using my name, but then Ill have to spell it. And then they are going to mispronounce it when reading it, so I'm not gonna know it's me they are calling.

10 months ago

seoulbigchris

One time at a deli sandwich type of store, the way the clerk phrased the question caught my attention: “What name would you like us to call when your order is ready?” She didn’t ask for my name, rather what name should they call out. My kids were embarrassed when I replied “Harvey” (that’s not my name). About ten minutes later some friends walk into the place, see me, and come over to say hello. Just then, the clerk shouted “Harvey, your order is ready”. My friends were really baffled when I stood up and went to fetch it.

10 months ago

musicale

Other coffee shops may be quieter, but I expect Starbucks workers might develop hearing damage from the blenders etc.

10 months ago

aristus

Few in US pronounce my name as it was originally, and I was born there. The final joke is when I moved to a country where it is pronounced right, people get confused because I don't have a matronym (slightly shameful not to) and my patronym (Bueno) sounds outright fake.

I've learned to roll with it using a joke that my cousin has it worse because her last name is "Excuseme".

10 months ago

crossroadsguy

I don’t see any problem with what you choose to do.

Neither do I see a problem with someone who would want their name to be pronounced correctly.

10 months ago

chaorace

I admire your pragmatism. I think it's quite neat how your chosen name reflects that aspect of your self, too.

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

dehrmann

I have a common western given name, but pronunciation varies wildly across Europe (where the name's common) based on the language's phonetics. It's perfectly fine.

10 months ago

VK538FY

Nothing wrong with providing an approximate pronunciation of your name with sounds available in the local language. It's reasonable and respectful for the person opposite you to make an effort along those lines. It's unreasonable for him to learn new sounds! My girlfriend has a name that I still can't pronounce like in her language but I and others approximate and that's good enough. No one expects her to adopt a local name, no one.

10 months ago

mcmoor

It's becoming kinda like a shibboleth to me. Most people can't spell my name and it's ok but if you can, you earn my favor.

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

tkgally

The guidance on Japanese names is a bit simplistic. Yes, the Japanese government has announced a surname-first policy, but Japanese people are not bound by that policy. I have hundreds of name cards (meishi) that I have received from Japanese businesspeople, academics, and government officials over the years, and my rough estimate is that more than half who indicated their name in English on the card put their surname last.

For more nuanced guidelines, I recommend the Japan Style Sheet published by the Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators in Tokyo. It can be downloaded for free at [1]. An excerpt:

“Japanese write their names in their own language surname first, as do Chinese and Koreans. After contact with the West was reestablished in the mid-nineteenth century, many Japanese adopted the practice of giving their surname last in international contexts. Japanese learn in school to reverse their names when writing or speaking in English and their domestic English-language media follow this practice, as do almost all other media around the world. Especially in translations, either name order may be adopted. Writers and editors may also choose a hybrid approach.” (p. 37)

[1] https://japanstylesheet.com/download-jss/

10 months ago

freddie_mercury

> The guidance on Japanese names is a bit simplistic

The title of the page is a "basic guide". Not a "comprehensive guide".

And they note that "the person’s preference is the most important thing to consider", which already covers your "but I have name cards in a different format" objection.

10 months ago

bumbledraven

> The title of the page is a "basic guide". Not a "comprehensive guide".

Straw man. Thep post could give more useful advice with a few extra words without being "comprehensive".

> And they note that "the person’s preference is the most important thing to consider", which already covers your "but I have name cards in a different format" objection.

The post suggests putting Japanese family names first, with a generic, obvious disclaimer at the top about personal preference taking priority. There a lot more to what tkgally (who is a professor emeritus at University of Tokyo and former professional translator, by the way) said about that than "I have name cards in a different format". For one, he estimated 50% of the business cards he received had the family name last. He also linked the guidance from the Japan Style Sheet which provides many additional points in favor of not assuming the family name goes first.

10 months ago

bitwize

Japanese people sometimes use the French-like convention of capitalizing the family name (e.g., "Hayao MIYAZAKI", not that he actually does this) so you can tell which is which without knowing a priori what order the named person prefers to write their name in English.

10 months ago

musicale

This seems like a very clear approach, as long as it doesn't come across as shouting.

10 months ago

longstation

I don't think this is surprising. Many Chinese do so as well because they are educated that westerners put the first name first, so they follow the Western convention for English names.

Edit: cellphone keypad

10 months ago

geraldwhen

Given names are only used in Japan in informal settings between people you know well, like friends and family. Work, school, and general life would use surname + honorific. The honorific is not optional.

10 months ago

dehrmann

So when it's written in a English, write it English style? That's actually very reasonable, as long as Japanese publications write western names in the Japanese order.

10 months ago

numpad0

I think it's okay. Japanese names written in latin alphabet is just the trade name anyway, a transcription. "The real" name, subjectively, is always in Japanese.

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

jbellis

Thank you for the pointer!

10 months ago

asmala

In some of these countries, nationality is a weak proxy for what actually matters for name order; ethnicity. Take for example Malaysia. Yes, ~70% of the population are Malay Muslims who (mostly) follow the convention mentioned here. But you also have 20%+ Chinese, ~7% Indians (with considerable ethnic diversity!), and an assortment of native peoples, all who follow their own conventions.

10 months ago

andrewaylett

The most important point:

> keep in mind that in all cases, the person’s preference is the most important thing to consider. If in doubt, just ask!

I'd be quite interested to read the converse article -- it's true that British names usually go "First Last", it's the exceptions that are hard to deal with. I know several people who go by a middle name, several more who are known by a diminutive that starts with a different letter of the alphabet to their formal name. Or who are known by their last name, because seemingly every other family in the South East of England called their early-80s son "Andrew".

But for an article like the one here, the interesting part would be to find out which aspects I think may be less interesting, but are actually surprising to people who haven't grown up with them.

10 months ago

lanstin

I would also love to read, “cultural considerations in visiting Norman, Oklahoma” written for the South Asian audience. Or “how to manage your US born workers” for upper class Asians. “Getting along in the US suburbs for the shy Indian tech geek.”

To the extent these things exist, they are not easily accessible to English only US born people. Actually, I have just found my next series of Chat GPT questions.

That said, the original article was interesting and more details than I had picked up inductively over the years.

10 months ago

elbasti

Cultural considerations in visiting Norman, Oklahoma:

- *Hospitality*: Oklahomian's will make a great fuss about their level of hospitality, and will often invite you to visit them in their home, using a phrase like "show up whenever! welcome to the neighborhood!" This is not a genuine invitation, and actually appearing in someone's home without a formal invite will be considered highly rude. This is an American phenomenon known as "chit-chat".

- *Dress:* Oklahomians have rigid norms around clothing and dress, specifically around sportswear. There are two kinds of sportswear and wearing one in place of the other is considered highly rude. Sports items like sneakers, shorts, t-shirts, and even sports jerseys are considered appropriate wear for almost all occasions ("casual"), but not for actual sporting, unless of a specific cut called "activewear" (lycra, spandex, etc). Wearing activewear in a social setting and casual wear in an active setting are both considered highly rude.

- *Children:* Oklahomians have very strict norms of childcare. Under no circumstances should you allow your children under the age of 12 to leave your home without supervision. This includes walking or riding a bicycle in your neighborhood. Young children under 10--even while under adult supervision--are not allowed in public places after 8pm. Expect to get comments or looks if you take your children to a park or shopping mall after dark. After 10pm expect police intervention.

10 months ago

smlavine

> Expect to get comments or looks if you take your children to a park or shopping mall after dark. After 10pm expect police intervention.

Seriously? The police will intervene if you, with your children, are at the mall after 10pm?

10 months ago

elbasti

Not at the mall, but at the park in a low-crime American suburb.

You're not going to get arrested but it wouldn't be surprising to get a "wellness check" from a suspicious police officer if children are playing at the park after 10pm.

10 months ago

JimDabell

It’s not exactly the same thing, but you might be interested in Passport to the Pub. It’s a description of British pub culture written for visitors. As a Brit it’s quite amusing to read about something that has seemed normal forever, only to realise that it’s quite mad at times.

http://www.sirc.org/publik/pub.html

10 months ago

notahacker

I'm also now imagining someone actually using this guide, walking into the sort of city centre gastropub popular with tourists, striding confidently past all the serving tables up to the bar, identifying a group of very drunk lads from out of town as "regulars" and trying to join in their banter, and then attempting to offer an even more confused Polish barman a drink...

10 months ago

OfSanguineFire

Indeed. But beyond that, I first visited the UK in the late 1990s and found that a lot of the pub culture I had learned from 20th-century literature, film, or even supposedly contemporary episodes of Eastenders was already out of date. The merger of pubs into large chains, and the importance of serving food to ensure profitability, also came as big surprises. And by the first decade of the new millennium, it really did seem like every service staff I interacted with on brief forays to the UK was Polish, Lithuanian, or Latvian.

10 months ago

smlavine

Can I use "cultural considerations in visiting Norman, Oklahoma" in a play I'll probably never write?

10 months ago

lanstin

Of course! I think it would be pretty funny.

10 months ago

lanstin

GPT-4 said to study up on football, especially the Sooners, try the fried Okra, say please and thank you a lot, and get used to car dependence, vast empty spaces, extreme weather, confusing language styles of seeming friendly but not meaning it, and increased physical distance between even friends.

10 months ago

j16sdiz

> study up on football

By "football", did you meant that hand-held oval-shaped thing?

10 months ago

cole-k

There has to be some irony that your comment is (intentionally?) obtuse when the OP is about changing how you speak to match your audience.

10 months ago

tuatoru

> Or who are known by their last name

English males calling each other by their family name (or hereditary place name) is a long-standing public school (US: private school) tradition. Upper middle class and above.

Long ago, if brothers attended the school at the same time, the suffixes "major" or "minor" were appended if clarification was needed: Jones major, Jones minor. Three brothers, the third was minimus. Don't know if this still happens.

10 months ago

Cthulhu_

And let's not even start on more archaic / aristocratic or educational titles, like "master", "lord", "doctor" and "sir". Although it's great to be able to double down on those in some situations, like how women with doctorates are still often refered to as "miss" / "mrs" instead of "doctor".

10 months ago

jhbadger

It is funny on some websites (airline ones, for example) where you can include titles, not only relatively common ones like "Doctor" or "Reverend" but also things like "Excellency" or "Lord". I imagine more people pick these latter ones as a joke than people who are actually entitled to these honorifics.

10 months ago

sdm

This is a bit wrong for Thailand as it doesn't mention nicknames. Or rules for using the given name vs. nicknames. Unless in very formal context it's normal to use nicknames not given names. In day to day life nicknames are by far more commonly used than given names.

Family names are almost never used expect in legal documents or formal setting. It's common for people who have been friends for years to not know each other's family names as they are so rarely used in day to day life.

It's also common also for friends/coworkers to not know each other's given names -- though less so than family names. Especially as you would never call someone you're friends with by their given name as it would be a bit rude. Usually in offices (unless very old fashioned) or with friends and family you'd use nicknames exclusively.

10 months ago

mabbo

Since you know more about this subject, I have a question on this topic that I've wondered for over two decades.

In 2001, I did a month long exchange program to Thailand. A group of eight Canadians stayed with eight Thais, and the year before they stayed with us. Incredible program.

All the Thais, as you mention, had nicknames. But many of the nicknames were English words that weren't really used as names in the West. I lived with a guy named 'Knight'. Another guy was 'Farm'.

Were these names Anglicized versions of Thai nicknames? Or were the actual nicknames just sometimes pulled at random from an English dictionary?

10 months ago

sirn

They're the actual nicknames. Back some thirty years ago, people were still named using Thai words like "Daeng" (Red), "Kai" (Chicken), "Noi" (Small), "Nam" (Water), while a Thai-Chinese family may have their elder member in the family name their children with a Chinese word. (e.g., mine was named by my great-grandmother, and if I were to spell my nickname properly in Chinese it would likely be "Shen", though I've never cared enough to confirm)

However, the influence of western media in recent years caused this to slowly shift into English words in the past twenty or so years. So nowadays it's not uncommon to find someone named "Night", "Nick", "Note", "Buddy", etc. There was also a brief period where people named their kids based on a Korean star they like (though not as popular as English-sounding names).

(And yes, getting referred to by first name on a website is always very weird to me :)

10 months ago

seanmcdirmid

If Thailand is like China, they were English names chosen by kids in English class. Not their real nicknames, just the names they use when speaking and writing English, and chosen with all the tact and creativity of a middle schooler without much knowledge about standard English names in the west. Also, since Chinese names often have meaning, they often go for English names with meaning as well (although unrelated to their Chinese name).

A famous English name in expat in China circles is Rainy.

10 months ago

mabbo

> A famous English name in expat in China circles is Rainy.

Funny that. A friend of mine since high school - who is white and has never been to Asia - has the first name Rainey. Not a nickname.

I've never met anyone else with the name!

10 months ago

needle0

As a Japanese native I'm torn on this. On one hand, respecting the local ordering & notation seems to be good manners. On the other hand, this creates an ambiguity where some people are writing Asian names in local notation and some others writing in western notation. (This is even true for Japanese people themselves, as mentioned in the other comments.)

At least things were consistent when everyone wrote them in western notation; now we can't be sure which part is the family name and which part is the given name, especially if it's from a country that you're not familiar with the order/notation rules. There's the "write the family name in all caps" rule to assist with it, but not everyone follows that rule either.

10 months ago

glandium

Fun fact: the Japanese government insists that foreigners use the name they have in their passport in official documents. That includes the middle name. My middle name has thus crept in all over the place. I've barely ever used it in my home country, but now have to use it everywhere (I live in Japan). Anyways, more relevant to OP, as a result, sometimes I'm called by my middle name, as if it were my last name (because the order is last first middle and they must assume that the literal last is the last name...)

10 months ago

tkgally

I also live in Japan, and I have exactly the same problem.

I think the people with the biggest name problems in Japan may be ethnic Chinese. Many use the Japanese readings for their name characters in daily life, but some official purposes require the Chinese readings. Some Chinese also use yet another given name in English. I've had some friends who ran into serious problems proving they were who they were.

Addendum: Another problem that some people with Chinese names have in Japan is that the hanzi/kanji in their names do not display properly or at all in Japanese fonts, and even if the characters can be displayed they don’t have well-known Japanese readings, so people using phonetic input don’t know how to type the characters.

10 months ago

glandium

While we're here with fun facts. I've been living here for ten years, and haven't needed a registered seal until recently. To register my seal (using katakana) at the city hall, I needed to register my katakana name at the city hall too, which I never needed and had never done. How do you that? By presenting a somewhat official document with your katakana name, which none of the official IDs (resident card or driver's license) have. The document they would accept are a cash card or a passbook from a bank. How did the bank get my katakana name in the first place? I made it up. So what's the point? Who knows.

10 months ago

numpad0

I had never realized how complicated it gets if two isolate languages just shared the script and some vocabulary, but independently developed syntax and pronunciation, until I took an introductory Chinese course. They insist "Akihabara" is obviously pronounced "chew-yeah, y'wan?(qiū yè yuán)", which hardly register as 3 letter noun to my ears.

And therefore, from your example, Japanese reading against Chinese reading, Chinese name in Japanese font, American name used for English against everything else, none of that is not just do not cross-validate but also seem somewhat fraudulent because everyone has some ideas about each of those strings.

(which, by the way, explains why made-up transliteration is fine; so long you're consistently a Linus Torvalds going by a close enough Ri-nasu To-baruzu, and no other versions exist, and it traces back to your passport, it cross validates as a coherent enough identity)

And Chinese names would be like "Ms. 3Jane Tessier-Ashpool" that seem to read "Saint-John Thomas Haywood" who's going by just "Junko Mary", nope, that isn't going to work on any official forms. I can only imagine how complicated it will be for them.

10 months ago

seanmcdirmid

China also has this policy. Oddly enough, your middle name is often seen as part of your first name, so your first name is no longer “Sean”, it is “Sean Clarence”. Oh, and your last name is now two words because there is a space after the Mc in your passport to account for the non-standard capitalization.

10 months ago

Fradow

That's funny, that would make it funny or awkward for me. While I don't have a middle name, I have 3 first names (as is customary in France: my first name, my godfather first name and my godmother first name). That means I have 2 male first name and a female one.

While some people use their second first name (it's rare but not unheard of), I don't know anyone who uses their third first name. In all but very official documents, you simply use one of your first name and your last name and that's it.

If I put my last name first and then my 3 first names, the female first name will come last. Let's just say no one has ever called me that, and I won't answer to it.

10 months ago

glandium

I'm French too. I said middle name because it was simpler. My mother has 7 (!) of them. I don't know how that would pan out for her. I don't know if they all appear on her passport, though.

10 months ago

voidbert

As a westerner, when Japanese names are written out, I like having the family name capitalized. That way, you can write YAMADA Koji or Koji YAMADA, and I'll know what to call you.

10 months ago

atomicfiredoll

I have a western name and have been learning Japanese. I also want to be respectful and considerate of the customs, legal documents, and software used in other countries.

I thought my family name with an honorific should be first when in Japan, but last night I saw some advice saying that people with western style names should use the given name first when speaking there. (That didn't quite sound "fair" for all the Japanese people use their given name first in western contexts.) Now I suspect the advice was out of date, but overall I agree that knowing when to go back and forth can be a point of confusion, especially with differing explanations available online.

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

mynameisamis

I'm from Europe but lived in Singapore for 10 years and worked with people from all over.

There were a lot of names that surprised me, like the occasional man with a female name. One was named Wendy, the other one I forgot. I think he was from the Philippines, or maybe Malaysia. Many Asian languages don't have male/female names, so when the parents want to pick a western name for their newborn they don't always consider the gender (maybe that has changed nowadays).

Another thing I had not come across before is fake western names. The parents want to give the kid a name that sounds western but don't want to limit themselves to the standard catalogue of names, so instead they pick two names and combine them, or one name and rearrange the letters. So you get folks named Danold, Stevid and so on.

10 months ago

OfSanguineFire

Someething similar to your “fake western names” has been a feature of Brazilian culture going at least back to the early 20th-century. A segment of Brazilians will give a child a name ending in “-son”,[0] even if it is invented out of whole cloth, just because an English sounding name sounds prestigious. A quick online search shows people disparaging this as a practice of the lower classes, but over the decades as some families have grown wealthier, this is widely found among the middle class, too.

[0] https://portuguese.stackexchange.com/questions/8634/what-is-...

10 months ago

dehrmann

Guessing these weren't native Singaporeans (where English is an official language and British influence is still obvious)?

There are also names like Leslie and Ashley that are more associated with women in the US, but have historically been gender-neutral.

10 months ago

mynameisamis

> Guessing these weren't native Singaporeans (where English is an official language and British influence is still obvious)?

Most of them were probably from other countries, but I know of at least one Singaporean lady with a fake western name. In her case the parents had arranged the syllables of her Chinese name into a European-sounding combination (quite clever IMHO and more authentic than a name from the "catalogue").

10 months ago

kortex

> so instead they pick two names and combine them, or one name and rearrange the letters. So you get folks named Danold, Stevid and so on

This is also a great tip for generating names in fantasy or sci-fi settings.

10 months ago

SeanLuke

Westernized Chinese names seem to be missing. For example, in Hong Kong it's common to have both Chinese and Western first names. This leads to a complex rule:

Using the Western name only: WESTERN-FIRST CHINESE-LAST

Using the Chinese name only: CHINESE-LAST CHINESE-FIRST

Using both: WESTERN-FIRST CHINESE-LAST CHINESE-FIRST

(CHINESE-FIRST can be one or two characters). I think I got that right?

10 months ago

dmurray

It's unfortunate that you refer to them as "LAST" and "FIRST" when the whole point of the exercise is to decouple ordering from naming.

"Christian name" and "surname" is closer to what you want, but problematic for different reasons.

It should be "Western-given", "Chinese-given", "Chinese-family".

10 months ago

mbg721

I see the dual-first-name thing a lot with consultants, but within the West I think it's typically Western-first, Chinese-first, Chinese-last, isn't it? Which is extra confusing.

10 months ago

aldonius

That's similar what I see for Chinese-Australian people. They'll get both a Western and a Chinese given name, though legal order probably varies.

10 months ago

joeblubaugh

Right, here in Singapore you might see Andrea Tan Zixuan

10 months ago

itake

Sometimes it's hard to know which Asian culture an Asian is from and under what system they are presenting their name.

A Vietnamese national working n the USA may say Thanh Nguyen (with Nguyen being their family name).

You basically have to memorize the top last names in every culture or just ask them what they want to be called.

10 months ago

mabbo

And this is why we need to really rethink the typical patterns on form inputs, which today usually presume a western style name pattern.

Just ask people for their full name, and what they would prefer to be called. (Unless you literally cannot provide your services' value without more detail).

10 months ago

Arnavion

I think most online forms I encounter these days have a single name field, though government forms are usually the exception. Separate first and last name fields was definitely very common 10-20 years ago but web devs seem to have learned since then.

10 months ago

petesergeant

Strange that it mentions nicknames for Indonesia, but not for Thailand, where you'd almost exclusively use someone's nickname for addressing them by name.

Also, Balinese names[0] are a trip if you're not familiar with them, where people are named by birth order (up to 4 -- after that you stick "again" on the name).

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balinese_name

10 months ago

chrismorgan

In south Indian names:

> Initials are often used to shorten the name.

A fun complication to this is that the initial may be more than one letter in English, taking the first consonant as it is in the source language (which uses an alphasyllabary), which may correspond to more than one letter in the Latin script; for example, “Ch. Naveen”.

10 months ago

navigate8310

Initials also include Sh. which means Shriman or Shri for males and Smt. which mean Shrimati

10 months ago

chrismorgan

That seems more like an abbreviation, like English titles such as “Mr.” and “Mrs.”?

10 months ago

fuzztester

Yes.

10 months ago

unmole

They aren't initials and shouldn't be used as such.

10 months ago

SanjayMehta

“Ch.” could be short for “Choudhary,” a title.

Or for “Chiranjeevi,” usually used on wedding cards before the groom’s name.

10 months ago

chrismorgan

I know a couple of people in Hyderabad where it’s definitely family name. But yeah, the mixture of initials and abbreviations of titles and such can readily become difficult to penetrate.

10 months ago

martyvis

In early 20th century Australia some common names were abbreviated rather than initialled, often seen on business names. For instance George was Geo. and Charles was Chas.

10 months ago

NoMoreNicksLeft

I've only ever heard of this in the context of some Roman Latin inscriptions on grave markers.

If I'm not mistaken, some of those can't be interpreted at all because they're ambiguous.

10 months ago

anotheruser13

Reminds me of the late US menswear store, Jos. A Banks. My dad used to buy his work clothes there.

10 months ago

andrewaylett

It's always worth referencing the classic Falsehoods programmers believe abut names: https://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-...

(I think this is the original "Falsehoods programmers believe about ..."?)

10 months ago

jhvkjhk

I have a Indonesian Chinese friend who has strange name. She said her parents made up her name preventing the massacre against Chinese.

10 months ago

em500

Yes, somewhere around 1966, ethnic Chinese living in Indonesia where pressured/forced to adopt an Indonesian-sounding name: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Indonesian_surname#196...

10 months ago

dessimus

Wow! That was a heavy burden for those parents. Imagine knowing that a misstep in the naming of your child would cause the death of many people.

10 months ago

robobro

Are you familiar with the Indonesian genocide? It was pretty awful but it seems like the world at large is unaware of what happened.

10 months ago

oddmiral

You are right, word should know more about this bloodbath for communist blood bathers.

10 months ago

sacrosancty

I think he's joking about the parent saying the name of that individual prevented the massacre.

10 months ago

madmax96

The whole situation is really confusing.

Some people already ``adjust'' their names for a Western audience, and others don't. So, given the <name 1> <name 2> of a Japanese person, I don't know if <name 1> is the family name or given name. Some people already make the adjustment so that Westerners get it right, some don't.

I don't care either way -- I'd just prefer things be consistent so that when I recognize a Japanese name I can call them by the proper name faster :).

10 months ago

paulddraper

FWIW, family name is almost one syllable (Li, Yang, Wu, etc.)

Though that only helps a little because loads of given names are also one syllable.

Fun Fact: 300,000 people have the name "Zhang Wei" [1]

[1] https://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-01/20/c_138721082.htm

10 months ago

numpad0

Modern Chinese family names are often one syllable, but China and Japan do not share language nor have much ancestral connections, and Japanese family names are usually not one syllable.

10 months ago

anotheruser13

You could look up the n most common Japanese family names (myoji ,名字). You probably would get a list like Yamaha, Suzuki, Watanabe, Tanaka, etc. Of course, this wouldn't cover every case, but it might help. 頑張ってください!

10 months ago

vdddv

Should we not simply be following the rules of the language spoken at the time? When speaking English, use the English convention. When speaking Japanese, use the Japanese convention etc.

10 months ago

Longlius

The issue is that the convention in many languages is that the name order depends on the origin of the name in question. In Japanese for example, native Japanese names are always spoken in Family-Given order but English names are always spoken Given-Family. So then the problem is now everyone must become an expert in discerning the origin of names just so they can use the correct order.

10 months ago

riffraff

let me just state the order of names is not standardized in Europe either, darn Hungarians.

(Nobody actually cares, but I do get constant confusion as a foreigner in Budapest because people sometime expect surname-first and sometimes given-first, trying to accomodate for me)

10 months ago

theodric

Something I've seen genealogists do, as well as some French-speaking Lebanese, and maybe others that I haven't noticed or encountered, is to put the surname in all caps to disambiguate e.g. 'Harrison Paul JEFFERSON'

10 months ago

xmcqdpt2

It's common in France and ex French colonies to use "LAST NAME, First Name" on official documents, including resumes.

10 months ago

glandium

In France both orders are used, depending on context.

10 months ago

mjn

Same situation in Greece. Formal documents like identity cards, university diplomas, and even mailboxes, generally put the surname first, while in running text, like a news article, the given name is first. Some formal documents also list the patronymic, in the order: Surname Given Patronymic.

In some situations it is less clear which convention applies. For example most of my older relatives use surname-first for their Facebook account name, which is less common with younger people. I have also seen both orders on business cards. I think most Greeks would not expect foreigners to be familiar with or follow these conventions though.

10 months ago

pella

in Europe: Hungarian + Basque ??

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hungarian_names

"Hungarian is one of the few national languages in Europe to use the Eastern name order, like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and some Basque nationalists."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_name#Eastern_name_ord...

10 months ago

RugnirViking

It's not unheard of in the UK either on official documents to put last name first, for example a lot of correspondance from banks etc would be "to mr lastname firstname"

10 months ago

numpad0

There were discussions on this topic here, just 19 days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=37332126

The hivemind consensus among most popular recommendations was to have a nickname field, followed by a full name field only if must, and don't try to validate names, Asian or not. Which is btw exactly how most social medias are built right now.

10 months ago

kqr

When I receive emails from @name I usually open my response with "Dear $name[0]" but I know better than to do that with Asian-sounding names.

However, I never knew exactly what to do instead, so I've always chickened out and went with the full "Dear @name" in the same order that I was given the names.

I hoped this would enlighten me as to the appropriate way to go, but I clearly overestimated the homogeneity of Asian name conventions!

10 months ago

andrewaylett

It's often the case that people will sign off with a form of their name that they're happy to be addressed by.

- Andrew

10 months ago

stavros

That's a good point, thanks andrewaylett!

10 months ago

kube-system

We should all really remove "first name" and "last name" from our vocabularies. They literally refer to written order, but when most (western) people use them, what they actually mean are given and family names.

10 months ago

diego_sandoval

And they make little sense when someone has two family names (father and mother), because then you have to call them "first last name" and "second last name".

10 months ago

kube-system

They make no sense in the context of this article at all, because "last name first" is nonsensical. East asians don't put their "last names first". Their first names are their surnames. Anyone who says "last name first" has the right spirit, but they still are missing the entire point.

The beginning of everyone's name is their first name, because that's what "first" means.

10 months ago

abdullahkhalids

Late to the party, but Pakistani names do not always follow the GIVEN FAMILY format.

Plenty of Pakistanis have "prefix"-names arising from tribe/caste, eg. Syed, Chaudary. The prime minister in 2012-2013 Raja Pervaiz Ashraf has the prefix name Raja.

The prime minister from 2002-2004 Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, has Mir as a prefix name. Moreover, both Khan and Jamali are tribe names.

Plenty follow the FAMILY GIVEN.

My name follows another common format. GIVEN FATHER'S-GIVEN. There is no family name.

10 months ago

smusamashah

Was looking for this comment. This guide is too simplistic. It went in some detail on variation of Indian names and I was expecting the same for Pakistan. Mine was TITLE Muhammad NAME. Some in family also have TITLE at the end of name.

First name, last name OR given name, family name on forms never make sense to me.

10 months ago

karaterobot

There are two issues, and the guidance about what order to use given names or surnames is only one part. I don't intuitively know which name is which, and it's impossible to guess whether the order given to me represents either the correct order, which I should preserve, or the incorrect order, which I should reverse. There is nothing inherent in a name that tells me what what is what; that's entirely cultural knowledge learned, traditionally, by making mistakes and being corrected.

So, all else equal, it makes more sense to me to just repeat the name I've been given (by the news, for example) as it's at least conceivable they've already done the research and are using it correctly.

I've also only rarely met people who even get angry if you get their name wrong, and those people seem to be angry about other things too. I can see why a public official would want to set the record straight. I have never seen a real person in the world care about this issue, including myself when I am misnamed.

10 months ago

mathieuh

If for some reason I were mentioned in a written communication from a surname-first country I would absolutely expect to have my surname first and I wouldn't care. I would also expect my name to be transliterated into other writing systems should that be required.

Is this really an important issue for people from surname-first countries?

10 months ago

numpad0

This is just my gut feeling, but it smells like someone might be wanting to purge invalid Japanese names from an existing database of Asians, and it's not working out at all.

10 months ago

geephroh

This has appeared many times on HN through the years, but worth referencing again:

https://www.kalzumeus.com/2010/06/17/falsehoods-programmers-...

10 months ago

cryptonector

I find that knowing how to pronounce someone's name the moment you see it written gets one a modicum of brownie points. It's worth knowing how to do it.

At an interview one of the people interviewing me went by just the first letter of their very long name but I asked what the full name was, so he showed me his driver's license then I pronounced it correctly on the first attempt. I got the job offer. I can't tell you that it helped or made no difference, since I didn't take the job and never got to ask. But maybe it helped, and it certainly can't have hurt (unless my interviewer felt I was showing off or something, which seems very doubtful).

If you're not sure how to pronounce someone's name, then ask, though I personally would give people brownie points for trying anyways.

10 months ago

biztos

A fun thing about Thailand is that if your name is David Jones you will often be addressed as Mr. David. (Aka Khun David.)

Takes a minute to realize this is not a mistake.

[edit:] Also if you use a nickname, say Bunny Colvin, you will be Mr. Bunny.

10 months ago

User23

This is common in the American southeast too.

10 months ago

FalconSensei

Brazil does this too

10 months ago

fnordpiglet

Thailand is a bit over simplified. No one goes by their Pali language name. Only in a very formal or official setting would you call someone their Pali name, which can be absurdly long and difficult to say, even for Thai people. Everyone has a Thai language nickname that is simpler to say and is of their own choosing. Often the Pali names are chosen by monks to be auspicious. They are however their official names and if they sign their name or write it in a document it’ll be the Pali name.

10 months ago

keiferski

This would seem easily avoidable if people reverted back to using only last names [1] and an honorific, as was once common in the Western world. Mr. Smith, Ms. Jones, etc.

1. I mean family names here

10 months ago

Longlius

People never exclusively used family names in the western world, at least not the way you imagine.

10 months ago

keiferski

I didn't mean "exclusively" as in they didn't have a first name, just that they were referred to by their last names in public settings. Even a few decades ago, it was still somewhat informal to refer to strangers by their first names.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlzm7-gvTRg

Thought that was obvious from the context in the article, which is about political leaders.

10 months ago

JimDabell

That doesn’t work if the culture in question doesn’t use family names. For instance Malays use their given name followed by their father’s given name. Would you really refer to somebody as “Mr [their father’s given name]”?

10 months ago

keiferski

Hmm, well reading the Wikipedia indicates that bin is used, which is similar to Arabic. It doesn’t seem that odd to call someone Mr. bin Osman. However the article does say that it’s considered rude to call someone by their father’s name in Malay culture.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaysian_names

10 months ago

jhbadger

That's actually how Western family names originally worked in part -- that's why things like Richardson and Johnson are common nanes (Richard's son and John's son). Of course other ones also came from professions like Smith, Baker, Cooper (maker of barrels), etc.

10 months ago

robobro

By last name, you mean family name, right?

In Indonesia we always use an honorific followed by a person's preferred name. Very simple!

10 months ago

keiferski

Yes, family name, my mistake.

10 months ago

anotheruser13

I wouldn't care for that. I'm tired of being "ma'amed" to death.

I'm a native Chicagoan, currently living in Texas. The US southern of calling one's (elders?) Miss <Firstname>/Mr <Firstname> confuses me, since I don't know the conventions....

10 months ago

tamimio

Agree, I do that all the time, I also feel it is a little more respectful to call someone by their family name rather than just name. Additionally, it’s better in terms of privacy in the internet, less phishing and social engineering attacks.

10 months ago

jimworm

> If you see a three-syllable Chinese name, you can be confident that the two-syllable name is the given name, and the one-syllable name is the family name.

Statistically speaking one could be fairly confident, but as a rule it is wrong due to the presence of compound surnames.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_compound_surname

10 months ago

peskysamurai

It seems strange that for the Sri Lankan Tamil naming convention, they use the name "V. Rudrakumaran"[1] as the example. I'm not sure I would use the name of someone with ties to LTTE as an example.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visvanathan_Rudrakumaran

10 months ago

causi

In my opinion you should tailor your speech to your audience. Your audience getting the correct meaning is more important than them hearing the correct words. You should say things in such a way that they'll be correctly interpreted. Not doing so for the sake of pedantry is like feigning shock when a group of young people look at you askance for calling someone "niggardly".

10 months ago

sbehere

This "basic" guide is probably well-intentioned and useful. It does gloss over a whole range of nuances and diversity of protocols for India. Wonder if similar glossing over is happening for other countries in the list.

10 months ago

tamimio

Russia is in Asia, Turkey is in Asia, Yemen is in Asia too among other countries, I think the article should be more specific than just limiting a whole continent in few countries.

10 months ago

hoseja

Is there some website or something where you can enter a Japanese name in unspecified order and receive a guess on which is family name and which is given name?

10 months ago

fenomas

Japanese first/last names are largely separate, so it would be pretty safe to just find someone on wikipedia who shares either name and use them as a guide.

10 months ago

[deleted]
10 months ago

vore

This is a little picky, but the explanation of Chinese names given is Han-centric: there’s definitely other kinds of Chinese names too, like Tibetan and Uyghur.

10 months ago

NoMoreNicksLeft

> there’s definitely other kinds of Chinese names too, like Tibetan and Uyghur.

Xi has a solution for those irregularities.

10 months ago

User23

Out of curiosity, in Asian countries do they write westerners’ names family first?

10 months ago

quickthrower2

A bit like programming: url.hostname, or hostname url.

10 months ago

hk__2

> A bit like programming: url.hostname, or hostname url.

What do you mean? A URL contains its hostname.

10 months ago

forgotpwd16

Maybe hostname.network or network.hostname? Like assume computers alpha and beta in network alphabet, then there's a choice between alpha/beta.alphabet or alphabet.alpha/beta.

10 months ago

quickthrower2

Haskell

10 months ago

boomboomsubban

This seems like the perfect place to ask.

I was recently watching an international sporting event. I watched games from South Korea and Japan, and with both countries I couldn't figure out if the Latin script name on their backs was their family name or given name.

With South Korea I guessed it was their given name, someone had either Park or Moon as a name but a different name on their back. But with Japan I couldn't tell.

Anyone know how they commonly handle jerseys? Searching "Japanese jersey name" was unhelpful.

10 months ago

kortex

As a really rough rule of thumb, in both Japanese and South Korean cultures, it would be fairly improper to address or refer to a "stranger" or any non-close-friend [1] by their given name. A jersey nameplate would absolutely constitute a stranger/formal context, so family name would be expected here. Even if you did not know that pretty universally, jersey nameplates/tags (and nameplates writ large) with only one name will be the family name.

1 - "stranger/non-close-friend" here means someone who you aren't already a) quite familiar with and b) in the age bracket / position in hierarchy c) in an informal friendly context. Any teacher, boss, employee, acquaintance, professional, etc, it'll be family name. Classmates, close friends, family members will usually use given name (in informal context - code switching).

As an amusing aside, this is a bit of an in-joke in the anime Mushoku Tensei (Jobless Reincarnation), where the main character is often using surnames and the formal or even Keigo register with his rough-and-tumble party mates and they are like "yo why are you so formal?".

But also, Park and Moon are common Korean family names. Because like the near-majority of South Koreans have the Kim surname, you'll often see initials like "H S KIM"

10 months ago

boomboomsubban

Yeah, I understand that the last name is commonly used except by someone you're very close to.

The Park/Moon thing really threw me. Are either ever a given name? As it made no sense that the name wasn't on the jersey. Maybe I was just mistaken and the player was on the bench.

10 months ago

mk_stjames

How I approached this question:

Googled pictures of the Japanese National baseball team, and then googled their wikipedia, noted that the english wikipedia article lists their names in western naming order (first first, family second). Matched some of the players names to the names on their jerseys in the photos.

They have names on their jerseys like "Nakano" (#7) and "Okamoto" (#25) and "Nakamura" (#27) - these are their family names.

10 months ago