Friday, July 17, 2009

Name Confusion

In India, people in many States have given names and family names. Given names are like Ashok, Asha, Satish, etc. Family names are like Banerjee, Khosla, Patel, etc. However a few places, like Tamil Nadu, have only given names and no family names. They go by initials (father’s given name’s first letter) and their own given names. For example, our Home Minister is Mr. P. Chidambaram. Chidambaram is his given name. P stands for his father, Mr. Palaniappan.

In USA, for anything and everything, they ask for first name (given name) and last name (family name). In the above example of our Home Minister, what do we write as his first name? Palaniappan? That is not correct because that is his father’s name. His given name is Chidambaram. Therefore, we can write that as his first name. What should we write for family name? Palaniappan? That is not right also. Therefore, quite a number of people have a dilemma.

They have opted for several kinds of solutions. Some people have chosen to use their father’s given name as their first name and their own given name as their last name. Some have decided vice versa. This brings another problem. What will be the last name of their children? If they go by family tradition, they will have a different last name in USA. That will bring several other problems. Most people opt for their given name as last name and give it to their kids also.

Some others use their caste name as last name.

There are some folks Americanize their given names to make it easy to pronounce. Anandarangan is now Andy. Janakiraman is now Jerry. Even some Indians who have a proper given name and family name also Americanize their given name. I know a gentleman named Puri. It is a quite common name in North India. He changed his first name to Cook. Mr. Cook Puri? I am not joking. It is real.

Here is another real story. While filling out application form from a university, one guy wrote his mother’s name as his first name. I have no idea why he wrote like that. While he was a student in the university, everyone addressed him as Susheela.

Mr. Chidambaram got his MBA from Harvard University. Just interested to know what his friends called him? Chidambaram or any shorter version of that? Palaniappan or any shorter version of that?


  1. Who Posted This?July 17, 2009 at 5:08 PM

    I went to Harvard too.
    I know Palaniappan Chidambaram.
    There was no way that we were going to pronounce his name.
    So we just shortened it and called him “PC”.

    William Gates III

  2. Thanks for your comments Mr. Who aka billy boy. I love your comments. I know you dropped out of Harvard. Mr. PC graduated from Harvard and he was the valedictorian and dated the head cheer leader. He was also the captain of the football team. He is now the Home Minister of India. Bill is not even the Home Minister in his home. Melinda is.

  3. Mr. Who Posted This,

    Seriously, I love your comments. They are funny and hilarious. I hope you continue to read my blogs and comment. Thanks a lot.

  4. much confusion just for a!!! Thios makes me remember what Shakespeare said "whats there in a name" as far as the first part of the post is concerned.

    Well Americanizeing ones name...i dont agree with this concept..accept us the way we are..this is should be proud of their roots.

  5. Thanks for your comments Nazish. I fully agree with you. I am totally against Americanizing one's name.

  6. Must be called "pallly", palani, pal, chid or PC

  7. Thanks for your comments Numerounity. All those nicknames are good ones.

  8. i too am against Americanization. Indians who move to other countries , suddenly discover that Indian system are crap. Common respect your roots. Its your identity. And America Sucks.

  9. Thanks for your comments Anonymous. And, welcome to my blog.

  10. So much for names. Happens in India too, most North Indians insist on surname and when most south Indians don't have one instead initials, there's a smirk usually.

  11. Thanks for your comments Insignia. I thought only people from Tamilnadu don't have surnames. I never knew even people in other 3 southern states do not have surnames.

  12. thats quite a research SG.. me too thought about about it..

    I always used my name as first name :)

  13. Thanks for your comments Kanagu. And, welcome to my blog. Yes, Tamilians have a little problem on this subject. Difficult to explain.

  14. I do agree that people change their names to something weird when they come to foreign countries or rather becomes short.Its weird and confusing

  15. Thanks Shilpa for your comments. I think it is the subservient mentality. If an American says he cannot pronounce your name, teach him how to pronounce. Don't say "Yes Sir, from now on you can call me Jim".

    This happened to me. One of the guys who started working for me came to me and said: I cannot pronouce your last name. I told him: You have 30 days to learn how to pronounce. If you do not learn, you are not working for me. He learnt in 2 days.

  16. RED, WHITE, AND BLUEJuly 20, 2009 at 10:41 AM

    To the Anonymous person who posted above.

    Did you really post that America Sucks?
    Are you freaking kidding me?

    The USA is the greatest country in the world.
    Yeah, it’s not perfect but a helluva lot better than whoever is the #2 country in the world. A distant #2 at that.
    So many people in this world hope, dream, and pray that they could come to the USA moreso than any other place.
    Once you are in the USA, you don’t want to leave.

    Where the hell are you from?
    Where do you live at?
    Have you ever been to America?
    If America sucks, who’s better?

    Don’t hate America.
    To paraphrase what you posted; hate the individuals from other countries who may have stopped “respecting their roots”.

    Lastly, to paraphrase another thing you posted; “Indians who move to other countries suddenly discover that the Indian system was crap”.
    I ask you, “was it crap”? Did they change the crappy aspect for a better one?
    I say what’s wrong with that? Change is good.

    If an individual feels that the previous way of doing things is not as good as a new way of doing things, then let him/her change…for the better.
    You are not “disprespecting your roots” by making postive changes.
    Now if an Indian moved to America and then said that India sucks and should be wiped off the planet. Then that is BS.

    Changes in life are fine.
    If change is bad, then give up Excel and start using Lotus 123.
    Give up the IPOD and start using a walkman that plays cassette tapes.

  17. Thanks for your comments Red, White, and Blue. And, welcome to my blog. My my my...Please don't be shy.

  18. Hello Anonymous,

    If America sucks, you can do the following:

    1. Go in front of the American Consulates where hundreds of Indians are waiting in que every day for visa. Beg them not to go to USA. Plead with them to go to the consulates of Outer Mongolia or Somalia and apply for visa.
    2. Go in front of the software companies and stage a dharna and “fast unto death” until those companies cancel all American project orders and start to accept project orders from Bangladesh and Burma.

    Millions of Indians have no bed and no roof when they sleep. Yes, we will be a world power by 2020. Yes, America sucks.

  19. Hey SG,nice post there.And thanks very much for visiting my blog.
    Cook Puri is hilarious:-)
    If you're planning to go to Switzerland, don't miss Interlaken.
    Keep posting!

  20. Thanks for your comments Vivek. I appreciate your input

  21. Thanks for your comments Varsha. Also, welcome to my blog. Next time I visit Switzerland, I will not forget Interlaken.