The conference I am participating in yesterday and today use the standard name tags: white paper with name.  But they printed the family name first, and then the other names.  This is amazingly confusing!

It got me thinking about the cultural bias we have when thinking about names.  Some of my name assumptions are:

  • First name comes first.
  • First name exists, and is OK to use when I have been introduced and talked to someone (except if I am abroad, as foreigners have different rules)
  • Family name comes last, and is sometimes changed when getting married.  Family name often indicates where in the country you come from, as shown by the name of the shape and etymology
  • Nickname is an ugly habit, used to spite people (I know this is different in the US, but I grew up with “the potato” and his son “small potato”, and trust me that these were not friendly names)
  • Middle names are a mess.  This is partly a function of the Norwegian legislation which for many years lumped an optional second first name (unless a hyphen was used between them), additional first names, and the second family name together in a single middle name category.
  • Naming children after grand parents is the proper way of naming children.  I am named after my maternal grand-mother.  My parents run out of grand-parents in the naming game, so my youngest brother (child number 5) is named after my great grand father.  It is also possible to name children after dead siblings.  Other people name their children according to fashion (celebrities,  royals, even using foreign names)

Cultural use of names differ enough that the semantics of name fields is a mess, as illustrated by the LDAP specifications.  In Feide we have added a new field with the full formal name (norEduLegalName), an attribute that has not been specified before.  The flip side of this, is that the importance of displayName, showing the preferred form of the name, gets more important.  Quite a few people have embarrassing middle names where the social cost of changing the name is too high (my mother has a second first name, named for her grand father, this name is somewhat hidden for casual use).