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Old 01-16-2012, 07:37 PM
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How to abbreviate compound surnames to initials?

Howdy, y'all:

This is my first post in this forum, and it's driven by a certain need to know. I hope to find an answer here.

How are compound surnames reduced to initials, and is it done the same way in Spanish-speaking countries as in English-speaking? For example, John McGowan would be, what, John McG? Mario del Toro would be what? Mario T, Mario del T, Mario d T?

What is true of a compound surname should also be true of a compound given or middle name, as well. For example, María's middle name is del Carmen. She chooses to represent it with the initial "C," but what other representations might also be appropriate? In another example, Juana's full given (compound) name is Juana del Rocío, with no middle name.

Does anyone know?

Thanks,
Mr. Bear
Old 01-17-2012, 02:42 AM
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In Spanish-speaking countries, you ask the person (or check how does he do it).

In our legal systems it's not common to use initials; if we want to prove that we have checked and agree with every page of a contract we sign every page, not initialize it. We use initials in ways that are much less formal, such as marking school clothes, where the point is to be able to identify your item and who cares if you marked it xXx, or lists of who has to do which task within a team - in this case, if you have an Ignacio Ochoa and nobody else whose firstname begins with an I he'll likely be marked just by I; if you have him and an Ismael Pérez, they'll be IO and IP... or even O and P, if these can't be mistaken as identifying somebody else. Most people in Spain will need an explanation of what the heck are you talking about, if you ask them what their initials are; in some other countries they're more likely to have encountered the notion before.

When I've had to initial stuff in the US I've used MLO, which are the first three capitals of my full name. My full initials would be MdlLOdOV, and sometimes people have used MLODOV, MOOV or MODOV. The M, ML or MdllL are from my firstname (which is compound, not two or four names), the O or OdO from my compound first lastname.

del Carmen is NOT a middle name. Her full firstname is María del Carmen. It's one of the advocations of Our Lady; the "del Carmen" part makes no sense without the María. Someone (specially a man) can be a Carmen without the María del, but you can't be a del Carmen without the María.

Last edited by Nava; 01-17-2012 at 02:47 AM.
Old 01-17-2012, 04:28 AM
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I realized there's something about language here that you're probably missing at all: Spanish doesn't have the concept of "middle names". Well, those of us who've had to fill Anglo paperwork have it, but it's acquired, it's not a concept we would have used to describe someone's names.

When a name (first or last) includes multiple words it's compuesto, but it can be "intrinsically compound" (<-- expression I just invented) in that it can't be split into parts each of which are usable as a name (María is a valid name, del Carmen is not, thus María del Carmen is "intrinsically compound") or it can be multiple names, each of which can be compound in turn. Your second example, Juana del Rocío, makes me think its full form would probably be Juana María del Rocío, which is compound on two levels: it's Juana plus María del Rocío, and the María del Rocío is a compound.

We have concepts such as these, using my mother's names:
nombre de pila: your firstname(s) as they would appear on a birth certificate issued by civilian authorities. María Teresa. It's not name plus middle name, it's two firstnames forming a compound firstname.
nombre bautismal: name received at baptism. María Teresa de Jesús Valentina Laura. That's not one firstname plus three middle names, it's four firstnames compounded, of which the second one is a compound as well.
nombre de confirmación: name received at confirmation. Teresa de Jesús. A single, compound firstname.
nombre y (dos) apellido(s): legal firstname plus one or two lastnames. If you're from a culture which doesn't work like this, then your full name including any family names; the name which would be obtained by taking all your personal or family names from your passport and writing them in whatever order is appropriate in your culture. María Teresa [two lastnames]. This is the name which needs to appear in any contracts in order for them to be legal.
nombre: what you want to be called. Maite [one lastname].

There's also nombre completo, which usually prompts clarification as it may mean legal firstname or the whole thing.

Now, why would a María del Carmen list "del Carmen" as a "middle name" in Anglo paperwork? Well, have you tried convincing an Anglo that your firstname really, really, absolutely is four words? I have, and it's a pain in the ass (from sitting in the chair for too long), plus a headache (from tension) plus a sore throat (from not yelling "my name is not María, damnit!"). The first time I encountered a form asking for "name" and "middle name" I was ordered to put the first word of my name in the "name" part and anything else under middle name.
I've also had plane tickets issued to Ms De (the American credit card had given my name as María Omumblemumble de Omumblemumble) or Ms La (Spanish cc, name given as María de la mumblemumble...) by computers set to treat the third word of a full name as the lastname.

Last edited by Nava; 01-17-2012 at 04:33 AM.
Old 01-17-2012, 07:03 AM
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I run into this sometimes with my hyphenated surname. People ask "which is the last name"? The whole bloody thing you idiot! If someone is named "Johnson" do you ask if their last name is "John" or "Son"? No, the whole thing is their surname. Likewise, if there's a hyphen treat is as another character in the name, the whole thing is the last name.

The fact I have no middle at all also causes heads to explode. I have been told in all earnestness that I have to have a middle name, apparently there are people convinced there is a Bureau of Names somewhere. I have had people tell me in all seriousness that babies are not allowed to leave hospitals without a middle name. No, folks, there is no law requiring middle names and no, I don't have one.

The people who don't understand that I've never been baptized are also fun, but much rarer than they used to be. Either that, or because I live in an area full of Anabaptists the notion that baptism isn't automatic is present in the local idiots.
Old 01-17-2012, 07:12 AM
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And to be completist, John McGowan would be "John M." or "JM."
Old 01-17-2012, 09:31 AM
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It would depend the person's personal preference. Attorney General Nicholas DeBellville Katzenbach, for instance, used "Nicholas DeB. Katzenbach."

If no preference was stated, it's up to the style guide of the publication using the name. Usually, that means a single letter nowadays.
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Last edited by RealityChuck; 01-17-2012 at 09:31 AM.
Old 01-17-2012, 10:40 AM
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I've tried in the past to persuade my manager that Justice Kennedy's name should be stated on first reference as "Anthony McL. Kennedy," but "Anthony M. Kennedy" it remains.
Old 01-17-2012, 10:56 AM
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Hispanic surnames would, in the US, be initialized just like Irish - "O'Brien", for example, would be "O", and "de la Vega" would be "D". In American English, "O'", "Mc'", "Mac'", "de", "del", "de la", "von", "van", "van de", etc, are all part of the surname. In reality, they are just patronymal or locational prefixes and should (I think) be ignored when initializing or alphabetizing, but I'm not in charge of that sort of thing.

I had a Chilean friend inscribe her initials on a personal bible, she shortened Maria Teresa Sanchez Aguilar to Maria T. Sanchez A.

Last edited by RoniaBorkason; 01-17-2012 at 10:58 AM. Reason: adding real life example
Old 01-17-2012, 05:55 PM
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Re: How to abbreviate compound surnames to initials?

Thanks to everyone, especially Nava. Although I have read quite a bit about compound names, this is the first time anyone said straight out that Spanish does not have the concept of middle names. That makes a real difference.

My wife, Maritza del Carmen, has been abbreviating her name as Maritza C. since long before I met her. She told me that del Carmen was her "segundo nombre," which I understood as middle name. (That's what it says in Word Reference Forum.)

There was never a problem with it until she came to the U.S. and married me. We've had no end of problems with immigration, schools, social security, etc. Now I understand that there were not one, but three problems.

The first, of course, is the utter inability of the American system to handle Hispanic names, along with the incredible inability of most Americans to see any viewpoint that differs from theirs. The third, however was my own misunderstanding!

So, thanks again, everybody!
Old 01-17-2012, 06:46 PM
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In Ireland, John McGowan would normally be initialised as JMcG; Geraldine O'Shea would be GO'S or GOS.

I can understand that in the US, where names of this type are less common, the more general pattern would be applied and John McGowan would simply be JM.

In France, Bernard-Henri Levy is BHL (both initials of the compound first name without a hyphen), Dominique Strauss-Kahn is DSK (both initials of the compound surname without a hyphen) and Patrick Poivre d'Arvor is PPDA (not PPdA or PPd'A).
Old 01-17-2012, 06:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
I can understand that in the US, where names of this type are less common, the more general pattern would be applied and John McGowan would simply be JM.
Well, it would be "J.M." We use periods to indicate that they are initials.
Old 01-17-2012, 07:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
Well, it would be "J.M." We use periods to indicate that they are initials.
Less common on this side of the Atlantic, I think, although it may be a matter of stylistic preference.
Old 01-17-2012, 10:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferret Herder View Post
And to be completist, John McGowan would be "John M." or "JM."
I knew a guy in college whose middle name was "McNair." He abbreviated it as "McN."

Quote:
Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
In Ireland, John McGowan would normally be initialised as JMcG.
Yeah, like that. Except he was American, and we were in the U.S.
Old 01-17-2012, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
Well, it would be "J.M." We use periods to indicate that they are initials.
I'm American, and I sign notes "BTP," not "B.T.P."
Old 01-18-2012, 01:48 PM
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By what name should we call the host of the new Cosmos series? Mr. deGrasse Tyson or Mr. Tyson? I really want to know.

What is the convention for women who hyphenate or use both their maiden name and husband's name? Hillary Clinton often goes by Hillary Rodham Clinton, but no one seems to ever refer to her as "Secretary Rodham Clinton". If she hyphenated instead, should we? There are people who go by two given names and a last name (Michael Eric Dyson, for instance). Are we supposed to call them by their first two names? "Hey, Michael Eric!"? What about Andrew Lloyd Webber? Is Lloyd a given name or a surname? His father was William Lloyd Webber. His daughter is Imogen Lloyd Webber. Is she "Ms. Lloyd Webber" or just "Ms. Webber"? Three generations of Lloyd Webbers looks like a compound surname to me.

If you're meeting Michael Eric Dyson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Imogen Lloyd Webber, how the hell are people supposed to know which names are surnames at all?!

Personally, I know the difficulty of being referred to by one of my middle names instead of a first name. My driver's license has my first name (which I don't use) and the initial of my second name (which I do), my college ID had my first initial and my second name, debit card matches my driver's license, but my credit card has my second name and my third name's initial. I've taken to using my first initial and second name when signing, but I still haven't figured out what to do with a standardized form.

I suggest a radical new scheme, in which we are all referred to by our twitter account (so register your preferred name as soon as possible).

Last edited by dorsk188; 01-18-2012 at 01:49 PM.
Old 01-18-2012, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dorsk188 View Post
how the hell are people supposed to know which names are surnames at all?!
You don't know until you ask. I don't think this is such a terrible thing, either.
Old 01-18-2012, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
You don't know until you ask. I don't think this is such a terrible thing, either.
Apparently it is:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
People ask "which is the last name"? The whole bloody thing you idiot!
Asking is fine when they're face to face, but what if you want to talk about them to someone else (such as in a paper) or you're trying to get in touch with them in the first place. Imagine you're doing an interview with someone over satellite and broadcasting the interview live to the world, is it really worth the expense and everyone's time to ask which parts of their massive unwieldy word salad they prefer to use when no one has time for their entire massive unwieldy word salad?

Twitter handles are unique to every individual, chosen to reflect individuality, they are a single mass of letters, numbers, and symbols, and besides their frequent unpronouncability, they are perfect.

Last edited by dorsk188; 01-18-2012 at 02:19 PM.
Old 01-18-2012, 02:24 PM
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And another thing: If you're from a country that does surname first, given name second, don't flip it around. I still don't know if it's Ziyi Zhang or Zhang Ziyi, because she goes by both.

If you westernize your name (like Jackie Chan), then feel free to use the western convention. Otherwise, leave it in the original order.
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