Thursday, February 20, 2014

About names...

Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa and I were fellow PhD students at the Australian National University. He was in the International Relations programme and I was in the Strategic Studies programme but, on not a few occasions, we would meet for afternoon coffee in the common tearoom at the H.C. Coombs Building. I always knew him as Marty and also that his family name is Natalegawa. What I do not understand is why The Straits Times persists in referring to him, on subsequent mention, as Dr Marty:

Some may argue that most Indonesian names are either singular or, like Malaysian and Singaporean Malay names, rendered such that the second part of the name is actually the father's name, eg, Malaysian PM Najib Razak has to be called Mr Najib on subsequent mention because Razak is his father's name and is not meant to be taken as a surname.

But, no, Marty is Dr Natalegawa on subsequent mention. ST can't claim conformity to its house style because it does -- correctly -- refer to the Indonesian president as Dr Yudhoyono:

TODAY does get it right, although it tends to follow the Western media's reporting style and ignore Marty's doctorate, ie, he is typically (not always, though) called Mr Natalegawa:


Still on politicians' names, Thai names are particularly tricky to get right. Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra's family name is not pronounced as it is written. It should be pronounced as "Shi-nah-wat". But if that spelling with the extra silent "ra" is how it should be, as translated from the Thai written script, why is this Thai demonstrator holding this placard?...

For the record, Vietnamese names are hard to get right too. "Nguyen" is pronounced as "Ggwen". Just to be sure, there is even a YouTube guide to help you get it right!...

I have extended family members and many Chinese friends with the surname "Ng". But apparently, Westerners have great difficulty getting it right, pronunciation-wise. Actually, I must confess that I can't find a way to write it down here as pronounced! Whatever you do, DO NOT pronounce "Ng" as "Ink", as this misleadimg YouTube clip tries to do...

I was told there was (is?) a building in Singapore called "Ng Building" but the name was changed to something else because Westerners kept tripping up when they tried to pronounce the "Ng" part. I can't verify if that's just an urban legend tale, though.

Finally, ST ran this commentary (Feb 20) by Indonesia's armed forces chief on the bilateral furore that has erupted over the controversial naming of an Indonesian warship:

Given the writer's credentials, it is certainly an important opinion piece. I read it carefully to locate the article's "nut graf" (ie, nutshell paragraph). I believe it is this one:


I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusion about the writer's sentiment.

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