new last names?
July 14, 2016 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Is there anywhere on earth where people still do not have surnames?
posted by parmanparman to Grab Bag (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Perplexity at 8:53 AM on July 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

posted by Etrigan at 8:54 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Tamil Brahmin community in South India does [Village name] [Father's first name] [Your first name].
posted by Tamanna at 9:07 AM on July 14, 2016

posted by bobafet at 9:28 AM on July 14, 2016

If Tamil Brahmins count, then so does Iceland. (They don't use the village name, but then again Iceland has the population of a village.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:33 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I believe Sherpas (the specific group of people, not all people schlepping loads up mountains) are traditionally named: [Day of Week] [Virtue Name]. In the 1960's the Nepalese government started writing down 'Sherpa' or [one of 18 clans] for a surname in censuses.
posted by so fucking future at 9:37 AM on July 14, 2016

Ethiopian and Eritrean names often consist of patronyms, as with the Tamil Brahmins and Icelanders.
posted by plep at 9:41 AM on July 14, 2016

The same in Mongolia.
posted by plep at 9:43 AM on July 14, 2016

In Brampton, Ontario, which has 175 ethnicities, it was uncommon but not unknown to have people with just one name on their offical is (or, if the database would not allow blank surnames the given name is repeated).
posted by saucysault at 9:44 AM on July 14, 2016

Burmese names are interesting for having neither surnames nor patronyms.
posted by plep at 9:54 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Sherpa is an ethnicity, not a job title, and many do not have what is commonly referred to as a surname.
posted by porpoise at 10:51 AM on July 14, 2016

It's not common, but some people in the US have only one name. There's no law that says you have to have a surname. Typically these are people who've emigrated from elsewhere. The practice on issuing visas to visitors or immigrants with one name only is to use that name as surname and to put FNU (First Name Unknown) in the first name field.
posted by beagle at 11:07 AM on July 14, 2016

Most Icelandic people use a patronymic or matronymic. The telephone directory is arranged by first name.
posted by mskyle at 11:16 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's not just Tamil Brahmins - many Tamil communities (and other South Indian communities) use [Father's First Name] [Given Name]. The father's first name is often shortened to only an initial.

Slight digression to illustrate how complicated this can be: In my own case, my parents put a feminist twist on this by giving me [Mother's First Name] [Father's First Name] [Given Name]. Both my mother's and father's first names were shortened into initials. When I grew old enough to have an opinion about this and traveled abroad I changed to [Given Name] [Mother's First Name] [Father's First Name], using [Mother's First Name][Father's First Name] as a "surname". Weirdly enough, my mother did change her "surname" to match my dad's surname when they got married, because he comes from a Christian community where they do use surnames, but by the time I was born she came to regret that and wanted her name to be part of my name too. The nice thing about India though is that there are so many different naming conventions that no one is surprised by anything.
posted by peacheater at 12:31 PM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some Tibetans don't have surnames. It made the "whose surname should we give the kid" conversation nice and quick for my stepsister and her husband.

Denmark made heritable family names compulsory in the 19th century and Norway in the 20th, which is why there are so many patronymic surnames--people just started passing their own patronymic onto their children as a family name.
posted by hoyland at 3:59 PM on July 14, 2016

Some Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Eritreans choose a family name, but most commonly your second name is your father's first name, your third name is your paternal grandfather's name, and so on. In theory this means you can trace your paternal line several generations.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:59 PM on July 14, 2016

Not just Brahmins -- not having a surname is common in South India. (I do not have one, so I made one up.)
posted by phliar at 1:03 PM on July 18, 2016

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