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Name Order Confusion
Roy Greenhilt: So Miko... Wait, should I call you "Miko" or "Miyazaki"? I mean, "Miko" clearly sounds like your given name, but I thought that the surname came first in feudal Japan.
Miko Miyazaki: What is this "Japan" you speak of? I have never heard of it before.
Roy Greenhilt: Good point.

Modern cultures use different conventions for what constitutes a personal name, resulting in all kinds of misunderstandings when speaking about foreign names. Additionally, there may be different conventions in the same country, most notably formal documents or lists sorted by family name. On this wiki, since most tropers are Westerners, the most noticeable of them is the treatment of Japanese names, usually when speaking about anime.

Name orders include:
  • Western: given name, followed by middle names (if any), followed by family name. Thus, William Shakespeare was William of the Shakespeare family. Since this is the convention best known to English speakers, the given and family name are usually called the "first" and "last" name in English. Incidentally, the only European culture that places the family name first is the Hungariansnote . In general, people are addressed by their first names by personal friends, and by their last names in formal situations. Therefore, someone with the name John Andrew Smith will be addressed as John by his friends, and Mr Smith in formal situations.
    • Hispanic: given name, father's first family name, mother's first family name. Thus, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, former president of Spain, is the son of Juan Rodríguez and Purificación Zapatero. Common thing among Hispanics in other countries is to merge the two family names into one single surname, sometimes with a hyphen.
    • Lusitanic: given name, mother's last family name, father last family name.
    • Icelandic: given name, father's given name plus -sson if male or -sdottir if female. Thus, Ólafur Grímsson, President of Iceland, is Ólafur, son of Grím. Due to the fact that the last names are patronymics rather than family names, first names are always used when addressing individuals. Therefore, Ólafur Grímsson would be addressed as Mr Ólafur even in the most formal situations.
    • Irish: Mostly outdated, but some Irish speaking areas still refer to people use the genitive form of their father's and grandfather's as surnames or sometimes other important relations. Thus Séan son of Pól and grandson of Séamus would be known as "Seán Phóil Shéamuis". Other Celtic nations also historically used a Patronymic system and some attempts at revival are being made.
    • France: the family name comes last, except in some official documents. Thankfully, it is sometimes clarified by putting the family name in all caps.
    • Britain, especially Wales: if a person has three names and the last is a very common surname (e.g. Jones, Smith) then the second name may well be a middle name used more prominently than usual, making it look like part of a double-barrelled surname (hyphenated or not). Well-known people sometimes use this device as a kind of pseudonym, but some use it in their private lives too. Examples: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Marshall Smith (family names Jones and Smith respectively). This can be a problem when people are listed by surname, as in bookstores; sometimes there's no handy way to tell whether (made-up example) Sarah Rowan Brown should be "Brown, Sarah Rowan" or "Rowan Brown, Sarah".
  • Ancient Roman: given name, followed by the name of the clan (gens), followed by the name of a family within the clan. (Women, however, generally only had a given name.) Thus, Gaius Julius Caesar was Gaius of the Caesar family within the Julius clan. What creates confusion is arbitrary shortening of names: Caesar's one-time allies in the First Triumvirate, commonly known as Crassus and Pompey, had different components taken out, as their full names were Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. Some famous (or infamous) Romans got a fourth name (agnomen) for their achievements, such as Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who got the nickname Felix (fortunate).
  • East Asian: for the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, family name, followed by given name. However, the names are often (and inconsistently) swapped in the West to match the Western convention: Thus, Hayao of the Miyazaki family, known as Hayao Miyazaki in the West, is known as Miyazaki Hayao (宮崎 駿) back in Japan. Korean given names consist of two syllables, usually hyphenated in the West (such as Kim Jong-il, Jong-il of the Kim family). It is common for the given name to include a "generational name", with one of the syllables being shared either by all siblings in a family (in North Korea) or all members of the same generation in an extended family (in South Korea). There are less than 300 family names in Korea, almost all are a single syllable (the rare two-syllable surnames, of which there are only about a dozen, are never hyphenated in the West). Approximately 54% of Koreans have one of five surnames: Kim, Lee, Park, Choi or Jung (with each having several Romanization variants).
    • Hong Kong: If a person has a Western given name in addition to a Chinese one, then in English-language sources their full name order will be the Western given name, followed by the family name, followed by the Chinese given name. For example, the second Chief Executive Sir Yam-Kuen, or Donald, of the Tseng family, is known as Donald Tsang Yam-Kuen.
      • Chinese given names may be one or two syllable affairs and may or may not be hyphenated. In some cases, the second syllable maps directly into the western idea of a "middle name". For some, the English given name may be a pet name and may not appear in formal documents.
    • To further complicate Japanese name transliterations, historical persons' (defined to be anyone born before the Meiji Restoration) names are not supposed to be swapped around, ie. Tokugawa Ieyasu is Tokugawa Ieyasu in English, not Ieyasu Tokugawa (Except in other Western languages besides English). Too bad that they forgot to tell this to the Japanese who have a tendency to automatically swap name order in all names when writing them in the Latin alphabet, assuming that this is the correct way.
  • Vietnamese names generally follow East Asian traditions, with family name followed by given name, but because about 40% of the country shares the last name Nguyễn, newspapers will often refer to people by the second word of their given names, and this is the form used even in formal situations. Therefore, the Vietnamese prime minister, Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, is generally referred to as Mr Dũng despite the fact that Nguyễn is his family name.
  • Thai names usually follow the Western naming orders of given name + family name. However, Thais generally do not address each other using their family names, even in the most formal situations. Therefore, the current prime minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra is addressed as Ms Yingluck even though Shinawatra is the family name.
  • Burmese names are generally simpler than their Western counterparts, using only given names with no family name, patronymic or matronymic. Therefore, in the cast of independence hero Aung San, that is his given name, and he has no family name or patronymic to go with it.
  • Russian: given name, followed by patronymic, followed by family name. Thus, Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia, was also known as Nikolai Aleksandrovich Romanov, which means Nikolai, son of Aleksandr, of the Romanovs family. The patronymic is often left out by Russians — except when addressing or referring to someone deferentially (e.g., a teacher or significantly older acquaintance), in which case only the given name and patronymic will be used. And to add to the confusion, most Russian formal documents place the family name first; e.g., "Romanov Nikolai Aleksandrovich".
    • They also add an "a" to the end of the family name for women, thus Anastasia, youngest daughter of Nicholas II, is Anastasiya Nikolaevna Romanova.
  • Indian names generally follow Western naming conventions and modes of address.
    • An exception would be Tamil names, as Tamils generally do no have family names. Tamil names typically go by the form given name + father's name, or father's initial + given name. Therefore, someone called Ramesh Ramaiah has the given name Ramesh, with Ramaiah being his father's name. He may also be known as R. Ramesh. Due to the patronymic nature of Tamil last names, first names are always used when addressing a person, even in formal situations. Therefore, in the above scenario, Ramesh Ramaiah will be addressed as Mr Ramesh.
  • Malay names as seen in Malaysia generally follow the pattern of given name + bin + father's name for men, and given name + binti + father's name for women. Due to the patronymic nature of the last name, first names are always used when addressing a person, even in formal situations. Therefore, the former Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir bin Mohamad, is addressed as Dr Mahathir.
  • Arabic: a full-blown Arabic name has, in the following order, an optional kunya (a reverse patronymic, meaning mother/father of), an ism (a given name), a nasab (a patronymic or string of patronymics), a laqab (a descriptive, sort of like a nickname) and a nisba (a family laqab, closely approaching the European "family name"). Fortunately, most contemporary Arabs only use the given name and one or more patronymics on an everyday basis, with either a patronymic, an ancestor's laqab, or a nisba serving as a surname (patronymics being most common in eastern Arab countries like Egypt and Lebanon, while laqab and nisba use is most common in western Arab countries like Morocco). Some countries have adopted fully western conventions, and most use them for international documents, though westerners may be required to construct such a full name for internal documents, such as visa applications.
    • The order has not been static throughout history. Example: In the full name of the arabic conqueror Saladin, "Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub", the laqab, 'Salah ad-Din', meaning "Righteousness of the Faith", comes first. The ism, 'Yusuf' comes next, then the nasab, 'ibn Ayyub'. Roughly translated to english, it's "Righteousness of the Faith, Joseph, son of Job."
  • Hebrew: many Jews have rather complex Hebrew names. An example is Paltiel Yeshai ben Pesach Yonah ha Kohen... or first name, middle name son of father's first and middle name, of the order of the Kohanim (Priestly Class of the Tribe of Levi). A female Jew would replace the 'ben' (son of) with 'bat' (daughter of). Some males will use the Aramaic 'bar' instead of 'ben'. There are in theory 11 and 2 half tribes plus the Priests, but many of the original tribes are assumed to be extinct and new ones created; vis ha Israel, ha Levi, ha Mizrahi, etc. Creation of new Hebrew names was commonplace after the founding of modern Israel in 1948; ex-European Jews often created Hebrew versions of their old European names, or discarded them entirely in favor of patriotic Hebrew names.

Examples of confusion:

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     Anime And Manga  

  • Tower of God adds to the confusion with a second family name, as in Koon Agero Agnis or Ha Yuri Zahard. The first name is the family name, usually of the father, as in Koon's case. The second name is the given name, where as the thrid name can be the maiden name of the mother (as in Koon's case, who had multiple wives with multiple children) or the family name of ones mentor, like Zahard's Princesses. For instance, Jyu Viole Grace is Viole, son of the Jyu family, protege of the Grace family.
  • Osaka of Azumanga Daioh wondered whether "Blue Three" (Buruu Surii; i.e., Bruce Lee) had "Blue" for his surname, but Tomo pointed out that he's a foreigner, so his surname would be "Three". (It didn't occur to the girls that Bruce Lee was of Chinese descent — China uses the same name order as Japan.) Translators usually change this joke because it would be too confusing for western viewers, in part because translated anime tends to reverse the name order anyway; we're introduced to Tomo Takino, not Takino Tomo.

    • The manga adapted this by having Osaka and Tomo argue about (Jean-Claude) Van Damme. Tomo thinks the right order must be "Damme Van". The followup joke is also different — instead of wondering who Blue One and Two would be, Osaka wonders whether there's a Damn Car.
    • "Bruce Lee" actually is his name in western order, and the name "Bruce" was a second name thought up by a doctor for the first three months of his life spent in San Francisco. His original name in eastern order is...a lot of things.
  • Being part gaijin (non-Japanese, in this case part German and possibly American), Asuka's name in Neon Genesis Evangelion is prone to this. Her full name is stated to be Sohryu Asuka Langley, with her gaijin last name coming after her given name as per Western culture, and her Japanese last name coming before her given name. There's no indication from the ordering as to which last name comes from which parent, although we can surmise that "Langley" is her father's last name, as it didn't come from her mother.
    • Speaking of her mother, she has the same problem: her full name is Sohryu Kyoko Zeppelin, as she's part German. Again, the ordering doesn't really tell us which side of her family is German, although she could perfectly have passed on her mother's last name to her daughter, according to Japanese customs. On the other hand, Germans usually pass on the father's last name to the children, so there's simply no way to know save for Word of God.
    • Some casual fans have even been known to confuse "Langley" and "Zeppelin" for their middle names, especially if the names are switched to Western "last name last" format and the Western names end up in the middle. Regardless, the rest of the cast shows none of this ambiguity and usually refer to them as "Sohryu" per Japanese Last Name Basis standard.
  • Some people still think the Starlights/Three Lights in Sailor Moon are siblings, because their names are Kou Seiya, Kou Yaten and Kou Taiki. However, these names are written in the western order, so they in fact share the same given name, "kou" being the Japanese word for light.
  • In School Rumble, much fun was had with Harima Kenji and Harry MacKenzie, which works only with the right order for each one.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Nanoha and Yuuno, who come from Japan and Mid-Childa (where names are in Western order) respectively, avert this. Nanoha, points out that "(her) friends call (her) Nanoha", and Yuuno specifies the order of his given and family names.
    • This might be a reason why Signum constantly calls Fate "Testarossa" because she thought it's her given name.
    • The names of the Nakajima family members are written in western order and in katakana to emphasize their foreign origin.
    • Most fans believed that the names of the Liese twins are written is western order and that Lotte and Aria are their fist name and Liese is their surname. Actually, their full names are just Lieselotte and Liesearia, as both names are written together in Japanese. But because they go with their shortened names Lotte and Aria, and go with Liese when other characters address both of them, most fans assume they aren't an Only One Name case.
    • Like her mother Nanoha, Vivio's name is written in eastern order.
  • Interestingly enough, in the English version of Naruto, when everyone else's names are in Western order, Might Guy and Rock Lee's names are in Japanese order.
  • Despite being in a rather Western style setting, characters in One Piece have their names in Eastern order. For example, Monkey D. Luffy as opposed to Luffy D. Monkey. A reader actually brought up this point in one of the author's question corners in volume 6. Surprisingly, not even the completely butchered dub by 4Kids Entertainment changed the name order to match Western expectations.
  • The Gundam franchise has very weird case of this: No matter which series we're talking about, all the characters with Japanese names (Amuro Ray, Hayato Kobayashi, Kira Yamato, etc, etc.) will be always be written in the western order. The only exceptions to this rule are Gai Murakumo and Kisato Yamabuki, whose names are written in kanji and not katakana like everyone else, heavily implying they're both native Japanese and NOT from ORB, the SEED version of Japan.
  • An In-Universe example appears in episode 8 of Servant × Service; when Jyoji presents his card to Lucy in episode 8, the romaji on his card reads "Tanaka Jyoji," family-name-first. As mentioned above, Japanese don't use this order if writing their name in Roman/Latin characters.
  • The Columbia/Sony English dub of Rurouni Kenshin (distributed as Samurai X) had this issue with the characters of Saito Hajime and Shishio Makoto, giving their names in that order while everybody else's names were written in Western order, as if to say that Saito and Shishio were the characters' given names. In fact, those are their surnames, with Hajime and Makoto being their given names. The Cartoon Network/Toonami version, which is carried under the series' original name, renders the two men's names in the correct Western order.

     Film - Animated  

  • The trope is referenced in Team America when Hans Blix calls Kim Jong-Il "Mr. Il".

     Comics  

  • The decision to keep use the Japanese name order in the first issue of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book has caused plenty of confusion in its adaptations, particularly when it comes to Oroku Saki, The Shredder. While Oroku was clearly the character's family name in the original story—his brother, Oroku Nagi, is introduced in the same issue—the first cartoon (which, like all adaptations, kept his name unreversed as "Oroku Saki") would play both "Oroku" and "Saki" as the character's given name, depending on the episode. Later, the second cartoon established "Oroku" as the given name and "Saki" as the family name within its continuity, despite its general faithfulness to the comic, and the fact that it kept parallel character Hamato Yoshi's name intact. Despite this change, which is kept consistent through the series and carries over to his daughter, who is consistently referred to as "Miss Saki", several fans will insist that it is a mistake, and that the character's proper family name is "Oroku", as in the comics.

     Literature  

  • At one point early in Bram Stoker's original Dracula, the Count accidentally calls Jonathan Harker "Harker Jonathan" and explains that he slipped into his country's tradition of giving the family name first. Transylvania was part of Hungary at the time, and Dracula claims to be a Székely note  in the same chapter.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, the Barrayaran culture (or at least, the Vor nobility) has an extensive set of rules governing the naming of children, especially sons. When he first meets his clone-brother, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan is able to tell him instantly that his name should be Mark Pierre Vorkosigan.
  • In Dave Barry Slept Here, Warren G. Harding is also known as G. Harding Warren and Harding G. Harding.

     Live Action TV  

  • An example of the inconsistency comes from the English dub of Iron Chef, where Japanese chefs (whether Iron Chef or challenger) have their names changed to the western, given name first order, but Chinese chefs (including Iron Chef Chen, born in Japan to parents who emigrated from China) had their names left with the family name first. The easiest way to figure it out is probably to listen to the Chariman's undubbed dialogue.
  • Listening to the original Japanese announcer on some seasons - particularly the earlier ones - of G4's Ninja Warrior (the Americanization of the Japanese Game Show Sasuke) occasionally gives one a rare opportunity to hear Western names spoken family name first. In later seasons (when foreign contestants become more common), they tend to match the name order with the contestant's preference.
  • In Star Trek, Bajoran family names come first, followed by the given name. This caused some confusion when Riker, upon first meeting Ro Laren, addressed her as "Ensign Laren", which the ensign was quick to point out was wrong. Most Bajorans tend to forgive this faux pas to outsiders.
    • In one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the senior staff get absorbed into a James Bond-like holoprogram, whith their personalitis overwritten with the characters in the program; Major Kira Nerys (Bajoran) becomes a Russian spy wiht no familiarity with outer space, let alone Bajorans. When she hears Dr. Bashir & Garak (the only two whose minds haven't been altered) refer to her as "Major Kira" and "Nerys" she asks "Who is this Nerys Kira?"
    • That's also how it was written for a computer display, not because it was wrong, but because the computer uses (surname), (rank) (given name); so records came up "Picard, Captain Jean-Luc", "Riker, Commander William T.", "Ro, Ensign Laren", and so forth. The exceptions were Data and Worf, though one would think Starfleet would have entered them as "Soong, Lt. Commander Data" and "Son-of-Mogh, Lieutenant Worf".

     Music 
  • Mitsuki Nakae, a singer who is active in doujin music, has her official website's URL written in Japanese order, something that usually don't happen with other Japanese artistes' official websites. Yet this doesn't happen when her name is romanized elsewhere.

     Role-Playing Games 
  • In Dino Attack RPG, there is a Russian character named Ivan Tzenovich. "Tzenovich" is a patronymic, not a surname, and no one refers to Ivan in a deferential manner.

     Video Game  

  • The poorly-translated English localizations of the Castle Shikigami games retain the Eastern name order in the manuals, but use the Western order in-game.
  • Certain Dance Dance Revolution remixes feature the song "Telephone Operator" by Pete(r) Shelley, but his name is mis-ordered as Shelley Peter.
  • Oerba Yun Fang and Oerba Dia Vanille in Final Fantasy XIII. To people who automatically assume that they're following the Chinese naming scheme and had not gone far in the game, and then read the entry for the game on TV Tropes and reach Les Yay. You'll need to resist the urge to throw in Incest Is Relative, because they're just not relatives. The naming convention for the pair is . Oerba is not their surname!
  • Quarians in Mass Effect have names organized as given name, apostrophe, clan name, vas/nar (for adult and underage, respectively), ship of residence/birth (ditto). Thus, Tali receives several Meaningful Renames over the course of the series: she begins the series as Tali'Zorah nar Rayya ("Tali of clan Zorah, born on the ship Rayya"), then completes her Pilgrimage and becomes Tali'Zorah vas Neema ("Tali of clan Zorah, crew member of the Neema"), then Tali'Zorah vas Normandy (when she needs to leave the fleet for political reasons), although it's just as common to refer to her as Tali'Zorah.
    • The much-maligned Mass Effect novel Deception' infamously only gave quarians a first name and ship name, and furthermore wrote as if their ship names were their last names.
    • Turians and asari use the "given name then family name" order. Krogan originally have only a given name but once they complete their Rite of Passage, they bear the clan name in front of their given name. Salarians list the individual's homeworld, nation, city, district, clan name and given name, but cut it down to just the last two (swapped to being in western order) in nearly all circumstances: only two salarians get their full names spoken on screen and neither are major characters.
  • Most pre-20th century Japanese historical figures are referred to in traditional eastern naming order with the family name first. Just head to The Other Wiki for examples. This caused problems in Sengoku Basara, as when the third game was brought to the west as Samurai Heroes, they switched the characters' names to western order. This became confusing for people who had already or then watched the anime English dub, which used eastern naming order.
    • Ironically, for a 'historical simulation', Koei's Samurai Warriors and Nobunaga's Ambition tend to zig-zag this. When the game is in Japanese, spelling-wise, they'd use the Eastern name order. When it comes to English translation, or writing their names in alphabet during credit rolls... they'd refer in Western name order.
  • All of the Japanese (Kazama, Mishima, etc.) characters in the Tekken series use Western name order, but the Chinese and Korean characters use the Asian order (e.g. Ling Xiao-Yu, Baek Doo-San).
  • In the same case like Gundam, the Super Robot Wars franchise has the same weird problem with their original characters: No matter if the character is Japanese or not, their name will be always written in the Western order. Even more weirder that in the manuals and additional materials, they normally display the names in katakana and western order, along with the same name written in kanji and Asian order
    Tytti: So, what's your name?
    Masaki: Ando Masaki (安藤 正樹)
    Tytti: Ando Masaki (アンドー・マサキ)? Are you Chinese?
    Masaki: NO! I'm JAPANESE!

     Web Original  

     Real Life  

  • Some newspaper articles refer to Hu Jintao as if his surname were Jintao. Just remember that Hu's on first (in the PRC), not Jintao. (Or was on first until 2013.)
  • There was a newspaper debate about how to refer to the late Saddam Hussein. The New York Times insists rather formally on "Mr. Hussein" (after he lost office), despite most calling him "Saddam", but the Times thought this was like calling Stalin "Joe". As mentioned above, the Arabic naming system can be complicated, and in Iraq, Saddam was "Saddam al-Tikriti" or "Saddam from the Tikrit region", but usually "Saddam" whether you liked him or not. Saddam himself imposed western-style names on Iraq, choosing Hussein as his family name.
    • The name Hussein is already used for the king of Jordan, anyway.
  • In Hungary, the only European country with "eastern" naming order, it is a very popular factoid that Japan is the only other country with family names coming first, so in case of English sources, the know-it-all translators are very eager to reconstruct the "westernized" Japanese names, often without making sure that they were westernized in the first place.
  • A New Hampshire radio station used to run a game called "Baseball Player or Samurai Warrior?". If you knew Japanese names, it was pretty easy to win, as the baseball players were all read in the western order, while the samurai names were in the eastern order.


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