January 15th, 2008
Who would have thought that a weblog post about Thai personal names would turn out to be so interesting:
There's an election coming up in Thailand on December 23rd and the streets are lined with election posters.Â As a bit of an i18n geek, I find it interesting that the posters almost all make the candidates' first names at least twice as big as their last names. [...] Thais have a given name and a family name; the given name is written first, and the family name last.
The correct explanation that given names play a role in Thai culture that is similar to the role that family names play in many Western cultures. The polite way to address somebody is with an honorific followed by their given name. The Thai telephone book is sorted with given names as the primary key and family names as the secondary key.
I guess that historically the main reason for the dominance of given names in Thai culture is because family names are a relatively recent innovation: they were introduced by King Rama VI towards the beginning of the 20th century. Family names were allocated to families systematically and the use of family names is still controlled by the government. Any two people in Thailand with the same family name are related. This leads to Thai family names being quite a mouthful.Â Here's a sample from people in the news over the past couple of days: Leophairatana, Tantiwittayapitak, Boonyaratkalin. Even Thais have difficulty remembering each others family names.
If you become a Thai citizen, you have to choose a new, unused family name.Â Just as with domain names, all the good, short names have gone. So the more recently your family has become Thai, the longer and more unwieldy your family name is likely to be. [...]
The comment thread that follows, where various people describe equally complicated naming conventions in other countries, is well worth a read.
[Via Kevan Davis]