LAST NAME first name [capitals = lastname?]

asaisaio

Banned
Chinese
If I tell you that my name is, say, "ABCDEF ghijklmn", and I don't tell you where I am from and which one is my first and last name. Do you know which one is my first and last name, only by capital and low-cast letters? I mean I was wondering whether the first name must be written proceeding the last name? If one part are all capitals, does it mean it's the last name? Thanks in advance! (For example, you see a name -- "ABCDEF ghijklmn" in a paper, and do you know which is the first name of the person?)
 
  • sandpiperlily

    Senior Member
    If you "tell me your name" in English, you would always say your first name first, followed by your last name, regardless of whether it is spoken or written.

    We usually would not write either of our names in all caps. We capitalize the first letter of each name, and put the first name first and the last name second, like this: Firstname Lastname.

    I would only assume that the two were reversed (with the last name first), if:
    1. There's a comma between them: Lastname, Firstname OR
    2. If it's very clear that one of the names is a first name and the other is a last name, and that they are in reverse order: Smith Lisa, García María, etc.
    In English, some names can be either a first or last name and are therefore ambiguous (Taylor, Madison, etc), but most names are only ever one or the other.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    As sandpiperlily implies, the placing of a name in all capitals means nothing to a US English speaker.
    Not always.

    I work for a medical journal, and we receive submissions from all over the world. Some authors put their first name last, others put their last name (surname) first.

    Whichever the order, if a name is written in all caps, that automatically (to me) indicates that it is the last name.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    I see it a lot from European authors. Here's an example: DELVECCHIO Antonio. I know that Delvecchio is a last name and Antonio is a first name, but having the last name in all caps makes everything crystal clear. :)
     

    MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    If you "tell me your name" in English, you would always say your first name first, followed by your last name, regardless of whether it is spoken or written.

    That does not apply in all cases, particularly with respect to some Oriental languages, such as Korean. Thus, North Korea's current head is Kim Jong-un; but Kim is actually his family name and Jong-un his given name. Nevertheless we say and write it that way in English -- effectively placing what we call a "last name" first.
     

    asaisaio

    Banned
    Chinese
    Not always.

    I work for a medical journal, and we receive submissions from all over the world. Some authors put their first name last, others put their last name (surname) first.

    Whichever the order, if a name is written in all caps, that automatically (to me) indicates that it is the last name.
    Miss Julie, I agree with you! I heard that if a word in all caps, it must be the last name. But I'm not sure, and so I post a thread asking this question. In addition, I've seen that in Olympic games, the scores are listed with the name like this "John DONOVAN", where the last name is in all caps. I was wondering why? Is it for clear? Is it correct if I write it as "DONOVAN John"?(because I make it in all caps, and the people can identify DONOVAN is the last name)
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    Miss Julie, I agree with you! I heard that if a word in all caps, it must be the last name. But I'm not sure, and so I post a thread asking this question. In addition, I've seen that in Olympic games, the scores are listed with the name like this "John DONOVAN", where the last name is in all caps. I was wondering why? Is it for clear? Is it correct if I write it as "DONOVAN John"?(because I make it in all caps, and the people can identify DONOVAN is the last name)
    Yes, the all caps is used for clarity.

    However, in common (American) English usage, the given name ("first name") goes first and the surname ("last name") goes last, and only the first letters are capitalized: John Donovan.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Yes, the all caps is used for clarity.

    However, in common (American) English usage, the given name ("first name") goes first and the surname ("last name") goes last, and only the first letters are capitalized: John Donovan.
    Asaisaio.
    That's why they are called first name and last name in English.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I see family names in all capitals a lot, but almost always from people who are not native speakers of English. That practice seems especially common among native speakers of French, even when they are not writing in French.
     

    sandpiperlily

    Senior Member
    If you "tell me your name" in English, you would always say your first name first, followed by your last name, regardless of whether it is spoken or written.

    That does not apply in all cases, particularly with respect to some Oriental languages, such as Korean. Thus, North Korea's current head is Kim Jong-un; but Kim is actually his family name and Jong-un his given name. Nevertheless we say and write it that way in English -- effectively placing what we call a "last name" first.
    We say the head of North Korea's head of state in the same way that he says it, that's true. That context is a bit different than someone introducing herself.

    In Korean, as I understand it, the concept isn't really "first name / last name" so much as "family name / personal name." Those go in the opposite order as we would expect them in English.

    If someone with a Korean name is introducing herself, to English speakers in English, she has a couple of options:
    1. Say her full name, in the Korean traditional order. English speakers will assume that the first word she says is her "first name / personal name" and call her that unless she corrects them or specifies, "Hi, I'm Kim Min-jun. Please call me Min-jun, which is my given name."
    2. Say her full name, in the English traditional order, with the given name first. This, in my experience, is what most Korean Americans end up doing. "Hi, I'm Min-jun Kim."
     

    asaisaio

    Banned
    Chinese
    Hence, I can summarize this thread as follows:
    [If I'm a foreigner, no matter where I am from, and other people don't know where I'm from]
    (1). If I say "My name is Abc Def", native English speakers will automatically consider Abc is my first name, and Def is my last name.
    (2). If I write my name on a piece of paper as "ABC Def", native English speakers will automatically consider "ABC" is my last name since it's in all caps, although I write it first.
    (3). If I write my name on a piece of paper as "Abc Def", native English speakers will automatically consider "Abc" is my first name.
    Am I correct about the three conclusions above?
     

    sandpiperlily

    Senior Member
    Hence, I can summarize this thread as follows:
    [If I'm a foreigner, no matter where I am from, and other people don't know where I'm from]
    (1). If I say "My name is Abc Def", native English speakers will automatically consider Abc is my first name, and Def is my last name.
    (2). If I write my name on a piece of paper as "ABC Def", native English speakers will automatically consider "ABC" is my last name since it's in all caps, although I write it first.
    (3). If I write my name on a piece of paper as "Abc Def", native English speakers will automatically consider "Abc" is my first name.
    Am I correct about the three conclusions above?
    (1) Yes.
    (2) No. As we see from this thread, some native English speakers will make this connection, while some of us are not familiar with it. You should not assume that this is "automatic" for all native English speakers.
    (3) Yes.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    We capitalize the first letter of each name, and put the first name first and the last name second, like this: Firstname Lastname.
    ... unless you're in the military, where the surname (family name) is usually given first.

    ... or in a telephone directory, for example: :rolleyes:

    Moreover, "first name" and "last name" are poor ways to identify people, at least in the U.S where we have people from other cultures using different conventions. Clueless reporters, especially on local TV stations where such creatures abound still cannot deal with the situation that the "last name" in Hispanic culures is the mother's maiden name and not the family name.

    I use "family name" and "given name(s)"
     

    asaisaio

    Banned
    Chinese
    (1) Yes.
    (2) No. As we see from this thread, some native English speakers will make this connection, while some of us are not familiar with it. You should not assume that this is "automatic" for all native English speakers.
    (3) Yes.
    Thank you very much! But I have to summarize again, because I'm a Chinese whose name is different from English speakers.
    (4). If I write my name as "Abc DEF" on a piece of paper, do English speakers definitely consider Abc as my first name?
    I posted (4) because many Americans know that Chinese names are reverse, with last name placed first. If I directly write "Abc Def" on a piece of paper, and then tell them I'm Chinese. They may not know which is my first name, and might ask me "Did you place your first name last?" Hence, I want to find a way that English speakers can know exactly my first name without asking me, whether I speak or write and whether I tell them where I'm from. Now I think I can do that in this way:
    (5). For speaking, I say "Firstname Lastname".
    (6). For writing, I write "Firstname LASTNAME" (to make it clear that ALTHOUGH I'M CHINESE, I'VE PLACED MY LAST NAME LAST).
    (where Firstname means my real first name, and Lastname and LASTNAME means my real last name)
    Is it a good way? Thanks in advance!
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    It is important that you do not refer to names as "first name" "second name".

    You should refer to your name as your "family name" and your "given name(s)." (Given name - name given to you [usually] by your parents)

    Let us assume that my name is "Paul Horatio Quinton-Smythe" -> Which is the "first name" and which my "second"?

    "Paul Horatio" are given names, "Quinton-Smythe" is my family name.

    Kim Jong-un's given name is "Jong-un" his family name is "Kim."

    Even the above guidance does not cover all names many of which are culturally determined.

    If part of the name were capitalised, I think I would assume that that part was the family name.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    Clueless reporters, especially on local TV stations where such creatures abound still cannot deal with the situation that the "last name" in Hispanic culures is the mother's maiden name and not the family name.
    Not exactly. Both family names--the father's and the mother's name--are used.

    In the example name Juan Castillo Navarro, Castillo is the father's name and Navarro is the mother's (maiden) name.

    But if Juan doesn't want to be that formal, he'll just call himself Juan Castillo (the father's name taking precedence).
     

    asaisaio

    Banned
    Chinese
    It is important that you do not refer to names as "first name" "second name".

    You should refer to your name as your "family name" and your "given name(s)." (Given name - name given to you [usually] by your parents)

    Let us assume that my name is "Paul Horatio Quinton-Smythe" -> Which is the "first name" and which my "second"?

    "Paul Horatio" are given names, "Quinton-Smythe" is my family name.

    Kim Jong-un's given name is "Jong-un" his family name is "Kim."

    Even the above guidance does not cover all names many of which are culturally determined.

    If part of the name were capitalised, I think I would assume that that part was the family name.
    Your names is too complicated for me, which almost catches up with the Russian names...
    There is a joke -- A Russian came to China and lost his way. He found a house, knocked the door, and asked whether he could live in the house tonight. "Who are you", asked the owner of the house. "Fadsklfj Dqoruopq Peeworq Fwertqgads Gqetoqth", answerd the Russian. To which the owner replied, "Oh, so many people! You can't live in the house!"
     

    dharasty

    Senior Member
    American English
    Whichever the order, if a name is written in all caps, that automatically (to me) indicates that it is the last name.
    I have a similar experience from my volunteer work in the southern African region (where English was the lingua franca): it was common on any official form to have the surname written out in all capitals.

    However, I have never seen that in the U.S.
     

    dharasty

    Senior Member
    American English
    (2). If I write my name on a piece of paper as "ABC Def", native English speakers will automatically consider "ABC" is my last name since it's in all caps, although I write it first.
    (3). If I write my name on a piece of paper as "Abc Def", native English speakers will automatically consider "Abc" is my first name.
    Am I correct about the three conclusions above?
    In the U.S., use the comma as such:

    • Given-name Surname
      • Example: Abraham Lincoln
    • Surname, Given-name (note the comma)
      • Example: Lincoln, Abraham

    This is also holds when initials are use for any of the given names:

    • J. K. Rowling / Rowling, J. K.
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald / Fitzgerald, F. Scott
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    Clueless reporters, especially on local TV stations where such creatures abound still cannot deal with the situation that the "last name" in Hispanic culures is the mother's maiden name and not the family name.
    Not exactly. Both family names--the father's and the mother's name--are used.

    In the example name Juan Castillo Navarro, Castillo is the father's name and Navarro is the mother's (maiden) name.

    But if Juan doesn't want to be that formal, he'll just call himself Juan Castillo (the father's name taking precedence).
    And sdgraham's clueless reporters* would no doubt refer to Senor Castillo Navarro as "Mr Navarro."

    It's common in genealogical circles to write a person's surname in all caps.


    * Not that I believe he would admit to ownership of them. :D
     
    Last edited:

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I have seen the use of capitalised surnames, but in my experience this is largely a French convention. We are used to a mix of conventions here, and in forms we are often told to underline the surname.

    The Chinese community here (and in places like Malaysia and Hong Kong) often have hybrid English-style and Chinese-style names, and as a result the surname can occur in the middle - thus the name of the Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, and the Wikipedia entry states:
    This is a Chinese name; the family name is Leung.
    And on our form, it would of course be Tony Leung Chiu-Wai. Writing the name like this would however cause confusion in the UK or the US, even with the underlining.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] In English, some names can be either a first or last name and are therefore ambiguous (Taylor, Madison, etc), but most names are only ever one or the other.
    That's not uncommon in the US (and increasingly so in recent years), but it's rare elsewhere in the English-speaking world. I know that to most people names are just a set of sounds, but to anyone who's sensitive to the significance of names the 'surname surname' formula is decidedly odd. Someone called Tyler Richardson seems not to have a name of his/her own: apparently he/she is descended from someone who tiled roofs, and from someone who was the son of Richard ... but what's his/her "own" name? :rolleyes:

    But even with the double surname problem, I see no reason for an upper-case family name. As you mentioned, sandpiperlily (or should that be Lily Sandpiper? :D), it's common practice in the US (and the UK) to insert a comma when names are reversed in administrative lists — which is about the only context in which reversal may be justified, for the purposes of alphabetical sorting by family name (though even that isn't necessary in a computer age where you can sort the second field as easily as the first).
    [...] Is it correct if I write it as "DONOVAN John"?(because I make it in all caps, and the people can identify DONOVAN is the last name)
    I would say it's neither correct nor advisable. As others have said, many people don't recognise the use of upper case for surnames: they might well think that Donovan is the given name and, if it was typed, that you'd accidentally hit the Caps Lock key!

    Also, the reversal of names can be annoying and embarrassing. Working in France, I often see names reversed (see below), but some of the English-speaking victims aren't too happy about the result. Who wants to be called Prince John, or Black Maria (a police van!), or Little Joe? — and it's even worse for Dick Brown, not to mention a German named Hans Fuck (sic). Using upper case for the family name doesn't diminish the ridicule.
    I see family names in all capitals a lot, but almost always from people who are not native speakers of English. That practice seems especially common among native speakers of French, even when they are not writing in French.
    Yes, I also see that a lot. They do it because there's total confusion over the 'normal' order of names in France. The correct order is 'forename - family name' (the French word for a given name corresponds to 'forename': coming before). But, dating from the Napoleonic era, I think, the 'administrator mindset' crept in: even today, teachers, who are mostly civil servants, require students to write 'family name - forename'. As a result, I get about half my mail addressed to Smith John and the other half to John Smith (well, I would if that were my name). Because of that confusion, the upper-case family name is the generally adopted workaround.

    However, I have numerous colleagues (British, American, Australian, Irish, and others) who dislike the practice because they feel the writer is SHOUTING their family name. Others object because it deforms their perception of their identity: if you know yourself as a Smith, you don't feel that you're a SMITH — and I know a McNulty who is positively insulted when his name is written as MCNULTY. I even know French people who object to it, particularly those whose names contain a particle such as "de", which (correctly) is never capitalised: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, for instance.
    Using caps for last/family name is an eminently sensible convention, just one that hasn't spread uniformly through the English-speaking world.
    Sorry, JS, but (for various reasons I've given above) I can't agree that it's eminently sensible, at least not in cultures where 'given name - family name' is the normal order. That fact, in itself, should suffice; and if reversal is really necessary, then a comma should be enough.

    Ws:)
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    That's not uncommon in the US (and increasingly so in recent years), but it's rare elsewhere in the English-speaking world. I know that to most people names are just a set of sounds, but to anyone who's sensitive to the significance of names the 'surname surname' formula is decidedly odd.
    There are, however, many given names that are derived from surnames - like Cameron, Clark, Elliot, Gordon, Keith, Melvin and Scott (all Scottish surnames) - which are not uncommon in the UK.

    There are also given names that are used as surnames - as in the cookery writer Elizabeth David or the Welsh poet and priest Ronald Thomas (R S Thomas).

    In other words, ambiguity is possible even in British names if there isn't a clear convention of which appears first.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    ...
    Sorry, JS, but (for various reasons I've given above) I can't agree that it's eminently sensible, at least not in cultures where 'given name - family name' is the normal order. That fact, in itself, should suffice; and if reversal is really necessary, then a comma should be enough.
    Ws:)
    In other words, ambiguity is possible even in British names if there isn't a clear convention of which appears first.
    My point was that if the convention were universally adopted that "caps meant family name", ambiguity based on order or commas would simply go away. I made no comment on cosmetics or desirability of names in caps:D
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    There are, however, many given names that are derived from surnames - like Cameron, Clark, Elliot, Gordon, Keith, Melvin and Scott (all Scottish surnames) - which are not uncommon in the UK.

    There are also given names that are used as surnames - as in the cookery writer Elizabeth David or the Welsh poet and priest Ronald Thomas (R S Thomas).

    In other words, ambiguity is possible even in British names if there isn't a clear convention of which appears first.
    Granted, nat, though those cases are different from the current (predominantly US) trend. Most Scottish surnames were originally patronymic (even without the prefix Mc/Mac); and for most of those names, there's at least one possible origin (often the most ancient) that was a personal name (i.e. a given name). Which isn't the case with occupational surnames, which were just extra ID tags: Peter (the) Tanner, Peter (the) Baker; nor with overtly patronymic surnames (Mc-, Mac-, O'-, -son, -s, etc). Those were never personal (given) names — until relatively recently, with all the Tanners, Tylers, Harrisons, Mackenzies and so on.

    As for David, Thomas, etc, these are just patronymic surnames without additional markers; Davidson, Davies, Davis, David all stand for 'son of' or 'of the family of' David.

    But yes, for whatever reasons, ancient or modern, there are indeed names that could be confused if there weren't a clear convention. Fortunately there is a convention for English (and most western) names: forenames come before. Does it work? In my view, yes. My two given names and my family name are all names that might be either one or the other. In all my years of living in the UK, and travelling in other English-speaking countries, I don't remember any instances of ambiguity arising. That changed somewhat when I moved to France (but see below).
    My point was that if the convention were universally adopted that "caps meant family name", ambiguity based on order or commas would simply go away. I made no comment on cosmetics or desirability of names in caps:D
    Understood, JS, and if a single worldwide convention were deemed necessary that might be a logical solution. But names are a very personal thing, and for many people 'cosmetics and desirability' are important. To some, being told they have to write their surname in caps would be as indigestible as being forced to write it in Chinese characters!:D So the chances of them accepting it voluntarily are nil; especially if they don't believe there is any ambiguity, because the 'order' convention works very well, thank you! :p

    When I moved to France (where in principle there's the same convention of 'given name first', but in practice there's chaos), I did often encounter the expectation that my surname should be written in upper case. But is that fixed in stone? No. I work in an international environment, where the majority of nationalities don't use upper case for surnames — and in that environment the French don't either. No-one has told them they mustn't; but once they aren't required to do it, they revert to the 'natural norm'. Several have told me they prefer it, especially one of them who has a four-letter given name and a four-word, thirty-two letter surname. She hates writing 90% of her name in capitals!

    Ws:)
     
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