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Thread: Using a last name as your first name (given name)

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    Senior Member remember_Cedric's Avatar
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    Default Using a last name as your first name (given name)

    Some of us outthere probably like a name that is unique, something that stands out (from others). I'm not sure if there is some kind of law or cultural rules that strictly says 'last names should never be used as a first name'. Or, perhaps in some countries, you'd be mocked at if you'd use a last name as a first name?

    A friend of mine uses such a last name as his first name: Stravinsky (Stra-vin-ski). Yes, it addresses my mind to think of our famous Russian-American composer, Sir Igor Stravinsky.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by remember_Cedric; 11-08-09 at 09:59 AM.
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    As a nickname, you could introduce yourself as anything you wanted.

    Legal documents and all, I don't see the point on insisting a certain name except for reasons of convenience and what not.

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    Senior Member remember_Cedric's Avatar
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    No, it isn't a nickname but more like a legal name, something that people (of all levels) will address him. Say, Stravinsky LEE for instance. I just took my friend's case as an example BTW, and I know there are some who do that too. Pointless or not, some people like to be different.

    Besides an individual's point of view, is there any cultural rule from any race that spells that "It is most inappropriate for someone to use a last name as a given name."?
    Last edited by remember_Cedric; 11-08-09 at 12:42 PM.
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    What people call you doesn't matter, it might as well be a nickname. The only thing that matters are legal documents. I.D, Passports, Bank statements etc.

    Besides from that, you can introduce yourself as anything, and it would be nothing more than a curious conversation topic.

    There was a story about a U.S Soldier who changed his legal name to Optimus Prime. That's his legal name, his I.D, passport everything is addressed as Optimus Prime. No one really cares what you call yourself so long as it doesn't have Hitler in it or anything to that effect.

    I met this old man, where EVERYONE calls him DOC. For Dirty Old ****. And we call him that affectionately.

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    Senior Member remember_Cedric's Avatar
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    Personally, legalised name is something I don't take so lightly. It's going to be a signature of yours and something consistently following you, and it would be better if the name comes with significance. I don't mind nicknames, which I have a long list.

    Quote Originally Posted by Banh Mi View Post
    There was a story about a U.S Soldier who changed his legal name to Optimus Prime. That's his legal name, his I.D, passport everything is addressed as Optimus Prime. No one really cares what you call yourself so long as it doesn't have Hitler in it or anything to that effect.
    That Optimus Prime legal name news kind of ring a bell. I won't allow my kid to fall into such foolishness though. I've ever heard over the radio station that a father registered the name for his child as @, nothing else but just @...with a lastname, should be. I can't remember which country did that took place.

    I met this old man, where EVERYONE calls him DOC. For Dirty Old ****. And we call him that affectionately.
    I know how acroynms can stand for a string of insults (or something to that similar effect) like IBM for International Big Mouth. I honestly can't imagine how these would become legalised name someday...

    P/s: Dear Moderators, should you find this thread doesn't fit in to this part of the forum, feel free to move it to Off-topic.
    Last edited by remember_Cedric; 11-08-09 at 01:07 PM.
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    To each their own. But a name is just a name. People get over it. Except maybe Hitler people tend to be sensitive about that.

    So to answer your question. It's just a name, anyone can be called anything they want, last names, titles, nicknames, anything goes.

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    Senior Member mawguy's Avatar
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    i'm not sure about taboos against using surnames as first names, but the chinese guys often refer to each other by their surnames, e.g. "Ol' Wang", "Young Zhang", "Mak Inc.", "Chan the Man", etc.

    and there are many english surnames that have been turned into popular first names, e.g.
    Stewart/Stuart, Madison, Cameron, Russell, Sheldon, Sidney, Ashley, Elliott, Ryan, Reagan, etc.
    Last edited by mawguy; 11-08-09 at 02:39 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Banh Mi View Post
    There was a story about a U.S Soldier who changed his legal name to Optimus Prime. That's his legal name, his I.D, passport everything is addressed as Optimus Prime. No one really cares what you call yourself so long as it doesn't have Hitler in it or anything to that effect.
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    I don't think there's any rules about using last names as first names. At least I haven't heard of any.

    So long it isn't too weird and out-of-the-world, nobody would really care, I suppose.
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    It would certainly be interesting to find out if any cultures have taboos against using a surname as a personal name. I suspect that kind of cultural taboo would only occur in a fairly small ethnic group where many people have the same surname.

    I wonder how many cultures/ethnic groups are left in the world that don't use surnames at all?
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    I've never heard of any cultures that would censure this. However, on this topic--I have a few close friends from southern India, where the father's given name becomes the child's surname. I believe it's simply a regional phenomenon in certain southern states and not a widespread trend in India (which is quite culturally diverse in itself). It's not exactly the same concept described by the OP, but it at least shows that the two can be interchangeable!
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    I don't think there's any culture with a rule that says you cannot use a lastname as your first name. At least, I've never heard of any.

    Wasn't there a practice of giving the mother's maiden surname as first name to a son in the olden days? At least, that's what happen to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky View Post
    I've never heard of any cultures that would censure this. However, on this topic--I have a few close friends from southern India, where the father's given name becomes the child's surname. I believe it's simply a regional phenomenon in certain southern states and not a widespread trend in India (which is quite culturally diverse in itself). It's not exactly the same concept described by the OP, but it at least shows that the two can be interchangeable!
    In this case the name actually means <son's name> son of <father's name>. For example, Muthu's faher is Ramasamy. So, Muthu's full name will be Muthu s/o Ramasamy.
    Last edited by kidd; 11-11-09 at 12:56 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sniffles View Post
    It would certainly be interesting to find out if any cultures have taboos against using a surname as a personal name. I suspect that kind of cultural taboo would only occur in a fairly small ethnic group where many people have the same surname.

    I wonder how many cultures/ethnic groups are left in the world that don't use surnames at all?
    You made a good point, Sniffy! Be it that they belong to tribal, obscure part of europe or somewhere of that sort, I'm curious if such "rules" do exist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sparky View Post
    I've never heard of any cultures that would censure this. However, on this topic--I have a few close friends from southern India, where the father's given name becomes the child's surname. I believe it's simply a regional phenomenon in certain southern states and not a widespread trend in India (which is quite culturally diverse in itself). It's not exactly the same concept described by the OP, but it at least shows that the two can be interchangeable!
    I can't say the same for whole of India, but I know that my colleague from West India has changed his full name (including father's name) for convenience use because his born fullname is too long and confusing for non-Indians. He maintained his given name because it carries a significance family value as it was given by his father.

    It's quite a shame for someone holding a name without significance or value, IMO.

    Quote Originally Posted by kidd View Post
    I don't think there's any culture with a rule that says you cannot use a lastname as your first name. At least, I've never heard of any.

    Wasn't there a practice of giving the mother's maiden surname as first name to a son in the olden days? At least, that's what happen to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy.
    Hmmm, I think that still exist, no? I often google up in Wiki for fullnames of celebrity so as to understand their background and origins. I noticed some female celebrities even carry the grandfather's first name as their middle name.

    Question: 1) When/what is the value of middle names? (as far as western countries are concerned?)

    2) What's with this Sr. and Jr. addressing? Say, Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr., Robert Downey Jr.
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    Quote Originally Posted by remember_Cedric View Post
    Hmmm, I think that still exist, no? I often google up in Wiki for fullnames of celebrity so as to understand their background and origins. I noticed some female celebrities even carry the grandfather's first name as their middle name.
    If you know this practice exist, why do you still feel it's weird to use a lastname as a first name? From your topic post, I get the impression that it's a very new and usual experience for you to see someone with a lastname as firstname. It almost sound like a taboo the way you word your question.

    Quote Originally Posted by remember_Cedric View Post
    2) What's with this Sr. and Jr. addressing? Say, Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr., Robert Downey Jr.
    It's to differentiate between the father and the son who has the same name.

    Quote Originally Posted by remember_Cedric View Post
    Question: 1) When/what is the value of middle names? (as far as western countries are concerned?)
    A Brief History of Middle Names
    Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: A Look at Middle Names
    Last edited by kidd; 11-11-09 at 02:29 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kidd View Post
    If you know this practice exist, why do you still feel it's weird to use a lastname as a first name? From you topic post, I get the impression that it's a very new and usual experience for you to see someone with a lastname as firstname. It almost sound like a taboo the way you word your question.

    It's to differentiate between the father and the son who has the same name.

    A Brief History of Middle Names
    Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: A Look at Middle Names
    Don't beat me up...

    .................................. I'm collecting "data" and opinions for my write-up (2000 words). I think I can generate 1000 words with these responses thus far.

    Firstly, you know, a single person's brain produces limited information. Secondly, my brain begin searching for the infor that was once available in my brain (with the help of these contributions). Thirdly, I'm only one of the many races in this world so I hope to know if this practice is happening in other races or ehtic group, which is not known to me. Fourthly, I know every name, or even some name that is no longer in use or less common, has its origin so I'm really not sure if such rules applies. (Hmm, do I make sense? )

    Keep those valuable opinions coming!
    Last edited by remember_Cedric; 11-11-09 at 06:22 AM. Reason: grammar and add-ons
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    I never understand why a father want to name his son the exact same name as his own and create such a confusion that you need Sr. and Jr. to differentiate it. But, that's the custom.

    Chinese is custom is different though. I don't know if this is regional. Some chinese deem it unlucky to have 2 members of the family having the same name. One of them will die young or something. So, when my mom want to put the character 'Yi' in my name, my grandma disallowed because my cousin sister already has it in her name.

    Btw, interesting Spanish naming convention.
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...-the-real-name
    Last edited by kidd; 11-11-09 at 02:40 AM.
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    Senior Member remember_Cedric's Avatar
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    My question on Sr & Jr addressing is probably too vaguely phrased. I wanted to know when did such a fashion of naming happened and how it happened.

    I guess, anything historical trully interest me.

    That Spanish naming convention is interesting.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sniffles View Post
    I wonder how many cultures/ethnic groups are left in the world that don't use surnames at all?
    Quote Originally Posted by kidd View Post
    In this case the name actually means <son's name> son of <father's name>. For example, Muthu's faher is Ramasamy. So, Muthu's full name will be Muthu s/o Ramasamy.
    Further to kidd's answer: Today, a lot of younger Indian kids (below 6 years old) in Malaysia are registered with only their given names on their birth certificates, i.e. in the "child's name" column, the name "Muthu" (for example) will be written/printed. The second part of the name, "s/o Ramasamy" is not stated at all.

    I wonder what will happen when the kid has to apply for permanent adult ID. Would he be OK just filling in "Muthu" in the application, or would he have to write "Muthu s/o Ramasamy"?

    btw, "s/o" in this case means "son of"; likewise "d/o" is "daughter of".

    Besides Indians, Malays and tribal persons in Malaysia do not use surnames too. Malays use "bin" (son of) and "binti" (daughter of), while tribal persons use "anak" (child of).

    Quote Originally Posted by kidd View Post
    Chinese is custom is different though. I don't know if this is regional. Some chinese deem it unlucky to have 2 members of the family having the same name. One of them will die young or something. So, when my mom want to put the character 'Yi' in my name, my grandma disallowed because my cousin sister already has it in her name.
    Actually, there is a naming convention called "generation names" among Chinese people, where they use the characters (words) in an ancestral poem in their names to identify each generation. Basically, people of the same generation would carry the same word in their given name, even if they were just distant cousins (as opposed to siblings).

    As for not having 2 family members with the same name, I think that applies more to people from different generations. My uncle had to change his choice for my cousin's name because one of the characters was the same as the one in my/our grandfather's name. And my cousin ended up getting the rather cool name of Hacken (as in the HK singer) in Chinese characters.
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    I think it's considered unlucky in Asian cultures because of the idea of reincarnation somehow.

    As for naming sons with the same name. It might just be a family tradition. Or maybe the grandfather was a great man, and his son decided to name his grandson after him in his honour.

    Some cultures use patronyms, the last name to denote who the father is.
    Take Irish names for example. Ronald Mc Donald: Ronald, son of Donald.
    Ewan Mc Gregor: Ewan, son of Gregor

    Vikings, also known as Norwegians
    Magnus Magnusson: Magnus, son of Magnus

    In Feudal Japan, peasants and lower classes didn't have last names, and their names were derived from where they came from.

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