Sunday, July 13, 2008

International Naming Conventions

The usual structure of names in the English-speaking world is a first or
given name, optional middle name(s), and a last name or surname.  An
interesting variation is the double-barrelled surname, being the hyphen-
ated combination of two surnames, such as John Smith-Jones.  Apparently,
more than two surnames can be combined,  so if John Smith-Jones married
Jane Jones-Smith, they and their offspring could adopt the (admittedly
silly) surname Smith-Jones-Jones-Smith.

There are other interesting naming conventions used in other languages
and cultures.  Wikipedia has links to various culture's naming

"Gymnastics with Onomastics" is another interesting article that looks
at how different languages and cultures form names:

A selection of interesting naming conventions ...

* Russian Names
Recently I read "Crime and Punishment".  Not only was it a great book to
read, but it also provided an insight into Russian naming conventions.
Full names comprise a given name, a patronymic and a family name (e.g.
Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov).  The patronymic is not a middle name,
but rather a name based on the name of one's father (Romanovich = son of
Roman).  In formal settings Russians always address each other by the
given name plus the patronymic.  But for informal occasions, there's a
rich system of short and pet names (e.g. Sonya is the pet form of Sofya/

* Spanish Names
"In Spain, people always have two surnames and one or two names (two
 names are also called a composite name). The concept of middle name as
 we know it in English-Speaking countries doesn't exist in Spain. The
 surnames follow this system: The first one is inherited from the
 father's first surname, the other from the mother's first surname...
 (but the order can be swapped)"
See also:

* Chinese Names
"The names of Chinese people are usually expressed as family name first
 and given name second. For example, a man called Zhang Wei has a family
 name of Zhang and a given name of Wei."

* Ancient Roman Names
"a name in ancient Rome for a male citizen consisted of three parts
 (tria nomina): praenomen (given name), nomen (gentile) (name of the
 gens or clan) and cognomen (name of a family line within the gens)."
In addition, an agnomen (or nickname) could be appended.

According to "Gymnastics with Onomastics", Brazilians can have names of
the form: [given name] [middle name] [maternal grandfather's family
name] [paternal grandfather's family name] [husband's mother's name]
[husband's father's name] -- Maria Beatriz Villela Soares Veiga de
Carualho.  No wonder many Brazilian soccer players adopt single-word
names (e.g. Pelé, Ronaldinho).  Otherwise their names would take up all
the space on the back of their shirts!
See "Why Ronaldinho Has No Last Name":