January 14, 2009

What is in a Name?

Here everything goes by number. Your employee number is your identity. It is more important than your name.” When I heard my manager, I felt terrible. “There is no value for my name!” - I was surprised. To me this was nothing but a good example of communist principle working through an organization, which is based out of a communist country. “Human beings are not valued. They are just ids and numbers” - I thought sadly

A few months passed...

I was having a friendly chat with my Chinese colleague. During the conversation he elaborated the "name-space-crisis" of China. Each Chinese name consists of three components. The first component is the family name. The second is a "connector" that has a fixed pattern of rotation-and-reuse across generations. E.g. if one's father used the connector 'li' his son will use a different - but usually a pre-defined connector, say 'hong'. The third component is the person's first name.

So... the name Wang-li-dong can be split into Wang, li, and dong. There will be no extra tail or header to that name.

Now the problem: Since there are so many people in China, so many Chinese have the same name. E.g. one can find lot of Zhangwei's in China. When there are so many people with same name, how can an organization or government, address or reach-out-to a specific person? The solution is to give the people numbers, or append an alphabet to their names. My company follows the number convention. Some other companies follow the alphabet convention.

Hmmm... the number has got nothing to do with communism”. I thought and laughed at myself.


Anonymous said...

Good one :)

Sophroniscus Dialectic said...

Thanks :-)