English-speaking East Asians of the world, when’s the last time someone decided that your family name was your given name?
James Griffiths writes for CNN the Japanese government’s losing battle (?) with English-language media to get the world to write Abe Shinzo, rather than Shinzo Abe:
The family-name-first format has always been used in Japanese. But during the Meiji Era that began in 1868, the order was reversed in English to begin with the given name, a format more familiar in the West.
While that decision may have made life easier for some 19th century Western diplomats, Japan’s neighbors soon proved that foreigners could (for the most part) handle writing the “last name” first. And for almost two decades now Tokyo has been trying to reverse the Meiji reversal. Last year’s request to the international media was only the latest attempt.
Japan is being “being hoisted on its own petard,” said Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies at Tokyo’s Temple University. He added that in the past, the country was “eager to distance itself from its neighbors so as not to be confused with them.” Now, though, it wants the West to treat it the same.
I think I write (and probably will continue to write) Shinzo Abe pretty consistently on the blog. But that would mean I have to write Jinping Xi as well whenever I write snarky shit about Mainland China. (Which I won’t.)
Is it prejudicial to apply a different standard to Japanese names rather than Chinese names? If everyone else is doing it, does that make it right? According to the CNN article:
For now, most media outlets are unwilling to make a change if no one else is, creating an inertia loop whereby inaction begets inaction. CNN Business could not find any major publication which refers to the Japanese prime minister as “Abe Shinzo,” and no outlet which responded to a request for comment suggested such a switch was imminent.