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Posted: 09 September 2010 06:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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donkeyhotay - 08 September 2010 01:11 PM

We’re getting a lot more employees from different cultures who do not have the nominal first name/last name.  Some have multiple names. 

There are plenty of British people - I don’t know if this applies to other English-speaking countries - where their full name might be, eg, James Harold Wilson, but they are only ever known by their second name and last name, eg Harold Wilson. That has just caused some confusion at the Middle Eastern company where I work, after the HR and IT team tried to integrate HR records with the email system, using a “first name.lastname” protocol based on HR records, and quite a few people who used their SECOND names as their usual handle suddenly appeared in the email system with, to their colleagues, “new” names. However, as may have been mentioned here before, as Arabic names generally take the form (forename)(patronym) or (forename)(tribal name) and the normal form of address is “Mr (or Mrs/Miss/Ms) (forename)”, most Westerners find themselves addressed as “Mr (forename)” anyway.

I just had a run-in with the British Passport Office over what my daughter’s surname is - we thought we had registered her at birth as forenames([hername] [hergrandmother’slastname] [hermother’slastname]) surname([mylastname]), but it turned out that on her birth certificate the fact that [hername] and [hergrandmother’sfirstname] were in upper and lower-case letters while [hermother’slastname] and [myslastname] were in capital letters meant that as far as the Passport Office was concerned her name was forenames([hername] [hergrandmother’sfirstname]) surname([hermother’slastname] [mylastname]), and they refused to issue her a passport in any other form than forenames([hername] [hergrandmother’sfirstname]) surname([hermother’slastname] [mylastname]) unless we produced a legal change-of-name form for her, regardless of the fact that whatever label you actually stuck on each constituent part of her name, she was still [hername] [hergrandmother’sfirstname] [hermother’slastname] [mylastname].

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Posted: 09 September 2010 06:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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I’ve work with a lot of Indian programmers who are from Tamil Nadu. Most of them do not have family names. They have given names plus their father’s (or husband’s) given name.

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Posted: 09 September 2010 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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jheem - 09 September 2010 06:44 AM

I’ve work with a lot of Indian programmers who are from Tamil Nadu. Most of them do not have family names. They have given names plus their father’s (or husband’s) given name.

Is there any sort of patronymic marker, like in modern Icelandic, or is it completely unmarked?

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Posted: 09 September 2010 04:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Is there any sort of patronymic marker, like in modern Icelandic, or is it completely unmarked?

It is completely unmarked, t least in Latin letters. I will ask a friend about it and get back to you.

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Posted: 10 September 2010 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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jheem - 09 September 2010 06:44 AM

I’ve work with a lot of Indian programmers who are from Tamil Nadu. Most of them do not have family names. They have given names plus their father’s (or husband’s) given name.

“Given names plus father’s (or husband’s) given name” still happens in rural Ireland, where to distinguish between (say) a number of Mary O’Neills, one might be “Mary Jeremiah”, another “Mary Declan”.

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Posted: 10 September 2010 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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"There are many applications for which you must know the employee’s given and family names and be able to differentiate which is which (e.g., government tax forms). A single field doesn’t help. It doesn’t indicate which is the given or family names and generally it just perpetuates the confusion.”

Dave, the point is that I don’t see why either the company OR the government should care which of the names are given names and which, if any, are family names. They are just characters to aid in distinguishing people in records and for addressing mail.

‘An HR system should ideally have four name fields: given name, middle names, last name, given name by which to be informally addressed”

What if the last name is the given name? What if the name by which they prefer to be informally addressed is NOT a given name?

Two fields would be needed:

full name (and don’t give a rat’s arse about which names are given and which are familial)
informal name

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Posted: 10 September 2010 09:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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And now, a comedic interlude.

The spy and the cricketer met at a club.

The spy introduced himself first.

“Bond. James Bond.”

The cricketer nodded and introduced himself.

“Vaas. Chaminda Vaas. Joseph Chaminda Vaas. Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas. Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas.Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas.”

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Posted: 10 September 2010 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Sorry, folks. I should have said ‘zealous Christians’ and I thought I did and I was remiss there. Apologies.
Maybe devout or pious or observant would’ve worked better? I know little about degrees of religiosity.
And the sand stuff I see now was ill-considered and off-topic.
When I teach Japanese or Chinese kids I ask them what King Kong is called in their language. The same, they say. Kong King, says I. It usually gets a laugh. It won’t here.

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Posted: 10 September 2010 12:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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OP Tipping - 10 September 2010 09:15 AM

Dave, the point is that I don’t see why either the company OR the government should care which of the names are given names and which, if any, are family names. They are just characters to aid in distinguishing people in records and for addressing mail.

That’s kind of what I’ve been thinking.  Back when people’s records were generally filed by their name (not a number) in paper files, it made sense to have things sorted by a last name.  But these days, modern database records usually have a number associated with them (employee number, SSN, account number, etc), and database searching algorithms do not need to rely on name order.  Just off the top of my head something like

select *
from EmployeeMaster
where name like
'&#xSM;ITH%'

is going to return all the Smith’s, regardless of whether that is a last name, first name, or something in between.  It will also give you Nesmith or Smithers or even Harris-Smith.  I see our HR people struggling all the time with unusual names because the application forces you to search by first name or last name.  In the case of Smith it’s not a problem.  But with a name like Sudheer, they don’t know if that’s in the system as a first name, last name, preferred name or what.  So sometimes they have to do multiple searches before they find an employee’s record.

If it’s the government that is holding things back, then they need to modernize their thinking.  I know, I know—good luck with that.

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Posted: 10 September 2010 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Dave, the point is that I don’t see why either the company OR the government should care which of the names are given names and which, if any, are family names. They are just characters to aid in distinguishing people in records and for addressing mail.

Except, what happens when the company has to submit a tax form to the government and doesn’t know which is the given and which is the family name? What name do you put on the name badge so all the other employees know how to address the employee?

Names are used for a lot more things than distinguishing people in records and for addressing mail.

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Posted: 10 September 2010 11:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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That’s why said either the company OR the government. The tax office should ALSO not care which of the names are given names and which, if any, are family names.

I agreed with you in my previous post that the informal name should be included.

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Posted: 11 September 2010 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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I really disagree. For one thing, the name can be written different in different order—people don’t always use the same order when they give their name. If I have one file that is labeled “Liu Yuling” and another “Yuling Liu,” how is a clerk to know they are the same person unless the given and surnames are specified? A single name field is a recipe for creating bureaucratic chaos. Take my name. Most Anglophones would recognize “David” as a first name and “Wilton” as a family name. But “David” is also a surname, and “Wilton” can be a first name. There probably is at least one person named “Wilton David” out there somewhere. Without differentiation of names, bureaucracies will make his life hell. (They’re probably doing that anyway, but no more so than anyone else.)

In any society, one’s name is a vitally important piece of information. It’s how we identify and socialize with each other. We get very upset when people get our name wrong. It’s a very personal datum. Society sees fit to distinguish between given and surnames, we should expect our bureaucracies to follow social conventions.

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Posted: 11 September 2010 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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"I really disagree. For one thing, the name can be written different in different order—people don’t always use the same order when they give their name. If I have one file that is labeled “Liu Yuling” and another “Yuling Liu,” how is a clerk to know they are the same person unless the given and surnames are specified? “

Each employee has a single record, presumably keyed by employee number. If the above caused any trouble it just means they haven’t maintained their system properly. It shouldn’t cause any trouble, any more than having two employees with the same name would.

“A single name field is a recipe for creating bureaucratic chaos. Take my name. Most Anglophones would recognize “David” as a first name and “Wilton” as a family name. But “David” is also a surname, and “Wilton” can be a first name. There probably is at least one person named “Wilton David” out there somewhere. Without differentiation of names, bureaucracies will make his life hell. (They’re probably doing that anyway, but no more so than anyone else.) “

We really have different ends of the stick on this. To my mind, recording which names (if any) are family names is just storing irrelevant information and ADDING to the possibility of confusion and error. If they record your name as “David Wilton” they have all the information they need on how to write your name. The fact that (I guess) Wilton was also your father’s name, the fact that Yuling Liu’s father’s name was also Yuling, the fact that Marty Natalegawa doesn’t share any names with either of his parents: these things are matters of personal cultural arcanery and not relevant to the matter of storing these people’s tax details and communicating about them. It’s not a geneology database, it’s a tax database. Two strings: full name to go on the front of the envelope, and a short name to go after “Dear”. EDIT: note that these are not fields that the database is keyed by. Each entry has a unique numeric identifier (Social security number, tax file number, NRIC etc depending on country). Any number of people can have the same name so it is not used to distinguish between records.

[ Edited: 11 September 2010 05:42 PM by OP Tipping ]
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Posted: 12 September 2010 01:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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"I am not a number, I am a free man”

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Posted: 12 September 2010 03:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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The problem is that such systems are not standalone entities. They interface with all sorts of different systems, human and machine. Not every file an HR department deals with will be keyed with the same numeric identifier, if it has one at all. And there are very good security reasons not to use tax identifier numbers on non-tax records, which means that you will have to generate multiple identifiers for each employee, and of course if it is the company generating the identifiers, they will be meaningless outside the company.

And what happens when you want to do a mail merge using the HR system (an extremely common function of such systems). You need the full name for the address and the given name for the salutation. If you haven’t tagged the data with the relevant metadata, you can’t do it. I’m sure an HR person could come up with several dozen other examples of instances where they need to differentiate between given and family names.

If the above caused any trouble it just means they haven’t maintained their system properly.

A good system is designed to operate even when the data hasn’t been properly maintained. It should have redundant metadata built into it, so that when the inevitable errors and confusion arise, they can be quickly dealt with. The data will get screwed up. The system should be robust enough to handle it. Your system assumes that every record uses the same name, in the same order, spelled the same way, every time.

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