Wednesday, May 23, 2012

last name/given name/first name: Common Errors in English Usage Entry for Wednesday, May 23, 2012.

last name/given name/first name
Now that few people know what a “surname” is, we usually use the term “last name” to designate a family name; but in a host of languages the family name comes first. For instance, “Kawabata” was the family name of author Kawabata Yasunari. For Asians, this situation is complicated because publishers and immigrants often switch names to conform to Western practice, so you’ll find most of Kawabata’s books in an American bookstore by looking under “Yasunari Kawabata.” It’s safer with international names to write “given name” and “family name” rather than “first name” and “last name.”

Note that in a multicultural society the old-fashioned term “Christian name” (for “given name”) is both inaccurate and offensive.

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