No more "Christian name, sir?" in Kent, UK

Federico Escobar federicoescobarcordoba at GMAIL.COM
Sun Mar 28 14:00:24 UTC 2010

A very common naming problem faced by people from Latin American cultures
comes from the fact that two last names are generally used: your father's
surname comes first, and your mother's second. Take Gabriel [first name]
García [father's last name] Márquez [mother's last name]. The Spanish word *
apellidos* is used to refer to both "last names", thus rendering questions
in English such as "what's your second last name?" semantically awry but
entirely pertinent.

This is very often misunderstood by other cultures, and has caused numerous
headaches when exams like the GRE and the LSAT are administered: they demand
an exact match between the name you registered with and your ID. One form of
compromise reached is to treat both last names as one unhyphenated compound
(as if "García Márquez" were something like, say, "de Waal," but Spanish
also has single, multipart surnames such as "Fernández de Soto"). Another
form of compromise connects both surnames with a hyphen (i.e., the British
historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto, who took on his father's surnames). It's
not very complicated, to be honest, but it would prevent a lot of
complications if it would be better understood.


The American Dialect Society -

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