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Name Order Confusion

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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 further confusion caused by different conventions in the same country, most notably formal documents or lists sorted by family name.


For potential sources of this confusion, as well as further details on various real life Naming Conventions, see Name Order Conventions.

Examples of confusion:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • 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" (which is Right for the Wrong Reasons; Bruce Lee was from China, which has the same name order as Japan, but that particular name for said individual is in western order). 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.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha: Nanoha and Yuuno, who come from Japan and Mid-Childa (where names are in Western order) respectively, defy this. Nanoha, points out that "(her) friends call (her) Nanoha", and Yuuno specifies the order of his given and family names.
  • Despite being in a rather Western style setting and implications that the characters are speaking English, most characters in One Piece have their names in Eastern order. For example, Monkey D. Luffy as opposed to Luffy D. Monkey. This is discussed when a reader brought up this point in one of the author's question corners in volume 6, and he confirmed the characters surnames are first.
  • When Yotsuba&! first introduces herself to Miura, she puts her given name first, then says her name again, family name first. When Miura asks which it is, she gives her given name.
  • Unlike everyone else in Ojojojo, Chris Portman was always referred to by his first name. In chapter 29 (which focused on the topic of First-Name Basis) it turned out that everyone thought it was his last name since, being British, he gave his name in western order when he was introduced.
  • When Akko first introduces herself to Andrew in Little Witch Academia (2017), she introduces herself in Japanese name order, before swapping to western order (the series is set in England).
  • In How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, the main character constantly introduces himself as "Souma Kazuya". He's using the Eastern order and never thinks that everyone around him uses the Western order. By the time he realizes the mistake, it's too entrenched to change, so he goes by "Souma" for the rest of the series.

    Comic Books 
  • Transmetropolitan: Mentioned in passing by Spider; he uses the fact that his contact in Hong Kong thought "Spider" was his family name as proof of how insular and out of touch with western culture Hong Kong had become.

    Fan Works 
  • In From Bajor to the Black a human mistakenly addresses the Bajoran viewpoint character as "Sergeant Eleya". Kanril Eleya quickly corrects him that Eleya is her given name, not her surname.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 

  • 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.
  • A non-cross-cultural example, in the Gordon Korman novel Son of Interflux, the protagonist, Simon Irving, is erroneously identified on school records as Irving Simon. This acts as a minor plot point in the beginning of the story.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek:
    • Bajoran family names come first, followed by the given name. This caused some confusion when Riker, upon first meeting Ro Laren in "Ensign Ro", 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, and Ro mentions in the same episode that some switch the order for outsiders' benefit. This is particularly notable, because when Picard was first instructed on Bajoran naming conventions, he acted like it was something the Federation hadn't encountered before, despite the fact that there are many real life Earth cultures today that do the same thing, namely the combined populations of Japan, Korea, and China (a not-insignificant percentage of the total population).
    • In one episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the senior staff get absorbed into a James Bond-like holoprogram, with their personalities overwritten with the characters in the program; Major Kira Nerys (Bajoran) becomes a Russian spy with 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?"

    Video Games 
  • Certain DanceDanceRevolution remixes feature the song "Telephone Operator" by Pete(r) Shelley, but his name is mis-ordered as Shelley Peter.
  • In Gundam, the Super Robot Wars franchise has a 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 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. This is Played for Laughs in MasouKishin when Masaki Ando, a Japanese, is summoned to La Gias for the first time and Tytti welcomes him:
    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!
  • Rockstar seems to have trouble with this whenever they have Chinese characters in the Grand Theft Auto series. Most of the time it can be handwaved by assuming that the characters in question use the Western name order while in America, to make things less confusing for the locals. Given that track record, however, it was inevitable they would walk right into this in Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, as they did with Triad boss Hsin Jaoming and his son... Chan Jaoming.
  • The first Splinter Cell game has Renegade Chinese General Kong Feirong. "Kong" is a legitimate Chinese family name, but the characters consistently refer to him as "Feirong" assuming that is his surname. The third game, Chaos Theory, gets it right when referring to Japanese names, but that's because those names are treated in Western order from the get-go.

  • In The Order of the Stick, Roy asks Miko Miyazaki what order her names come in. Miko is her given name, and Miyazaki is her surname.

    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.
  • 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". Saddam himself imposed western-style names on Iraq, choosing Hussein as his family name.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A 1974 film by Louis Malle is entitled Lacombe Lucien in the original French. The central character is a peasant boy called Lucien Lacombe; the title gives his name in the manner of an official document. To avert the confusion, a comma was added after "Lacombe" e. g. for the English and German editions of the film.
  • Girls und Panzer: The anime's English dub's translators put the name in Western order, but the manga's translators used Eastern... except on the back cover of volume 2.
  • Taro Yoko, director of Drakengard and its More Popular Spin-Off NieR and NieR: Automata is generally cited in Eastern naming order, as "Yoko Taro", even as his colleagues use Western name order. Yoko seems to be the only developer in the entire Japanese video game industry to be consistently referred with Eastern name order, even in Western press, leading to people not in the know of this trope mistakenly treating his given name (Taro) as his surname. It doesn't help that "Yoko" is also a given name, albeit a feminine one.
  • Ai Fairouz's name is said as Fairouz Ai in Eastern name order...except Fairouz is actually her first name and Ai is her middle name, meaning that she's actually credited in Western name order in Japanese, whilst elsewhere she's credited as Ai Fairouz (Middle Name then First Name), an inverse example of this trope. Her real last name is Kadota, which isn't used in her credits.


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