Rangachari Anand has an interesting entry on how South Indian names work:

South Indian names can be confusing. My “official” name on my passport is Rangachari Anand. However, my name is “officially” backwards! If you were to meet me on the street, I’d like you to call me “Anand”.
So then perhaps you might conclude that we write our family name first like the Koreans. But thats not the case either. Its actually a little more complicated…

His blog contains “Essays and articles about IT and Indian English,” and in the latter category is an entry about the word bifurcation:

Bifurcation is one my favorite words in the English language… It is certainly not a commonly used word in the West. Indians however, love this word and use it in common speech. If you were to ask for directions when traveling in India, it is very likely that the person giving you directions would say some thing like “when the road bifurcates, go right…”

The link comes from Nancy Gandhi of under the fire star, who’s been posting great things since returning from self-imposed hiatus; her latest is a quote from Srikanth Reddy called “Corruption”:

I am about to recite a psalm that I know. Before I begin, my expectation extends over the entire psalm. Once I have begun, the words I have said remove themselves from expectation & are now held in memory while those yet to be said remain waiting in expectation. The present is a word for only those words which I am now saying. As I speak, the present moves across the length of the psalm, which I mark for you with my finger in the psalm book. The psalm is written in India ink, the oldest ink known to mankind. Every ink is made up of a color & a vehicle. With India ink, the color is carbon & the vehicle, water. Life on our planet is also composed of carbon & water. In the history of ink, which is rapidly coming to an end, the ancient world turns from the use of India ink to adopt sepia. Sepia is made from the octopus, the squid & the cuttlefish. One curious property of the cuttlefish is that, once dead, its body begins to glow. This mild phosphorescence reaches its greatest intensity a few days after death, then ebbs away as the body decays. You can read by this light.


  1. Thank you for your kind words! (‘Corruption’ is a prose poem, actually — a classification which might provoke an entry of its own from you, if it hasn’t already)

  2. Local varieties of English take their own direction (bifurcate). I remember reading something quite trashy from Nigerian English making it seem that “futile” there is a common word meaning “impotent / sterile”, which in turn seemed to be an obsessive topic for many. (Perhaps a “futile / fertile” pair?)
    In Flann O’Brien’s books ordinary people constantly use “class” where I would use “kind” or “sort”. I wondered whether it was some kind of vestige of Catholic theology from their education system. (or “some class of vestige of Catholic theology”).

  3. I allways wonder why western media are using last syllabe as family name when come to vietnamese name? is it something to do with french convention? but why english media follow suit? and in the same vain, ho chi min shoule be called min in the article but i’ve never seen such use, why?

  4. The given name (which comes last in Vietnamese) is used as the reference name (“Mr. Thieu”) because there are so few family names, so referring to “Mr. Nguyen” would be too confusing. As far as I know, Ho Chi Minh is the only Vietnamese routinely referred to by his family name, and I’m not sure why that is. I have a biography of him somewhere, so if I dig it up maybe I can find the answer.

  5. Michael Farris says

    language hat is right in that the given name is last and is the only one used by itself by Vietnamese.
    The whole order is
    family-name optional-connector given-name
    So Nguyen Thu Oanh can be referred to as Nguyen Thu Oanh or Oanh. Titles likewise can go with the whole name or given name alone (but not with just the family name).
    Traditionally however, for kings the reverse was true and they were known by their family names. By analogy, given his historical/political importance, Ho Chi Minh has been granted the same kind of status and can be referred to with Ho. The most common way of referring to him in written Vietnamese seems to be Bac Ho (Uncle Ho), often abbreviated to Bac.

  6. Aha! Thanks, I should have known my commenters would save me the trouble of looking it up.

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