Friday, October 31, 2014

Coding: How to request, store, and display names from different cultures and languages?

I have found this great site that does a great job of describing the majority of cases. While trying to create a database, I had created a table with the standard first name, middle name, and last name. I had input several names to test this table. There were a few instances that had my question the method.

Before you read further, I will be coming from the standard American naming format where most people will have a first name and last name with an optional middle name. The first name will typically be the given name, while the last name will be the family name. There are rare exceptions due to the cultural or individual reasons. As far as I am aware, there are no laws to how the games should be passed from generation to generation so names really could be used in any manner in theory.

A lot of ancient names have only a single name like Euclid. I have the table to allow nulls for last name, but it still raises the question on what impact this will have on applications that may use the last name. What do people with a single name fill in forms that require a last name? He can also be identified as Euclid of Alexandria. As some names make use of the location names, "of Alexandria" could be designated as a last name.

On the other spectrum there are names with multiple parts, usually including parents name, location names, generation name, caste name, and any new traditions people want to make up. Which parts should go into which field or column? First, middle, and last name could still work but would be up to the user to decide. The problem with that is that we lose some capabilities to easily group people by names... but is that really a problem?

Along the same line, many east and southern Asian names are family names first. Should that be literally the first name or switch the family name  to the last name? This also poses the same problem as many immigrants decades ago have adapted their names to the given name then family name structure, while more current immigrants have kept the same order (like Yao Ming).

At the end of the day, is there a real need to separate the name into first, middle, and last? As the w3 site suggests, I could use different fields of full name, given name, and/or display name. I would lose the ability the ability to automate the US American formality of addressing names as Mr., Mrs., or Ms, as I wouldn't know what the last name is (because some last names have multiple parts).


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