Powered by Bravenet Bravenet Blog

Janitor On Duty

journal photo

April 14th, 2014

6:32 PM

Oh dear, let's hope this ends well


"Kai Luk" sounds somewhat like a chicken dish or the body part of a chicken, depending on how one pronounces that, so I really hope someone in the forum would dissuade the author from going with that name.

I'm not sure how things are in Hong Kong today - in China, Chinese names tend to have two words, while Chinese folks outside China may also have three words (family name - one word, personal name - two words).

Common family names - Lee, Lim, Wong, Phang, etc.

Personal name - anything goes, really, although some people would ask a geomancer for "lucky names" for their children.

Usually it's family name first, then personal name. Any reversal of that is usually imposed by Westerners to conform to naming system in their media, or an effort by the person in question to fit in a Western society or context. Therefore, it is very unlikely that someone would deliberately call himself or herself "personal name, family name" in the company of fellow Chinese.

Family names are one word. Therefore, if the person's name is Wong Some Thing, his personal name is "Some Thing", not "Thing". Non-Chinese may call him "Wong", "Some", or "Thing" as a kind of affectation, his family members may call him "Ah Some" or "Ah Thing" or any variation ("Little Some", "Big Thing"), but it is unlikely that Chinese formal acquaintances or strangers will do the same. Unless they are insulting the poor guy in some way using slurs or puns built from his name, that is.

As for Japanese names, it's the same - family name first, then personal name. If the naming system is reversed, again it's either by Westerners to conform to the naming system in Western media or by the Japanese themselves in order to make Westerners feel less awkward. The Father of Japan is Tokugawa Ieyasu, not Ieyasu Tokugawa. It's Honda Tadakatsu, not Tadakatsu Honda. While it's common for close friends or family members to call one another using nicknames that sound nothing like the personal name, you rarely find family members calling one another using the family name (what's the point).

Now, Muslim names are trickier. There are no family names - you are identified by your personal name, followed by "son of your father" or "daughter of your father".

When it comes to peasants, commoners, and every day folks, for Abu bin Hamid, his personal name is Abu, "bin" means "son of", "Hamid" is the father. Osama bin Laden, therefore, means "Osama, son of Laden". Sons and daughters of the same man may give one the impression that "Laden" is a family name, it isn't. It's just, simply, the name of the father. "Binti" is used instead of "bin" for females. "Bin" and "binti", by the way, may be spelled differently depending on the country or region ("ben" is a common variation of "bin", especially in Western media), but the meaning remains the same. People who have no idea whom their fathers are, or converts, would call their father "Abdullah", the name of Prophet Muhammad's father. If you see, say, a Chinese  whose name is Halim bin Abdullah, that means he's a convert and his Muslim name is Halim.

For members of the ruling classes, the naming system gets more ornate. "Ibni" is used instead of "bin" and "binti". And the deceased father may get a prefix, "al-Marhum" or a variation of this spelling, which is a way of addressing the fact that the man is, you know, dead. Members of the royalty have long names, most of them titles and flowery courtesy prefixes to show how better they are than everyone else. Sultan Sarafuddin Idris Shah ibni al-marhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah - quick, can you figure out his name? Sultan shows that he's royalty, and his personal name is the mouthful Sarafuddin Idris Shah. His father was deceased, the previous sultan whose personal name was Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah.

And, unlike what Harlequin Mills & Boon would like to believe, you can't toss "al", "as", and other prefixes all over the place for a sheikh's name. "Al" means "the", but it is used in many different manner. When tagged to a name, it indicates that "so and so is from this man's family". So, "Adam al-Hamdan" means "Adam, from Hamdan's family". Or, if the "al" is tagged to a place - "Muad al-Iraq", it just says "Muad from Iraq". "Al" can also be tagged to a profession, etc. Therefore, a name with "al" is usually affectionate in nature or a nickname, rarely used in a formal setting unless there are many people with the same name and the fellow wants to differentiate himself, heh. "Al" is sometimes spelled as "el". An author who uses both "al" and "el" in a single name for her characters is usually confused.

Now, note that all these rules apply to MUSLIMS. It is possible that a Middle-eastern tribe practice a different culture or religion and therefore have different name systems. Islam is a religion that imposes its own set of acceptable name system, and Muslims usually follow these rules. If you are a Harlequin Mills & Boon author and you don't want to waste time doing research for your sheikh book, then don't have the characters mutter "Allah!" left and right.
2 comment(s).

Posted by Ashera:

So this made me wonder, since you mentioned it in your book review, how do Muslim names change upon marriage? I gather the woman's name does not change and neither does the man's?
April 14th, 2014 @ 10:06 PM

Posted by Mrs Giggles:

Nothing changes with the names.
April 14th, 2014 @ 10:25 PM