Mongolian surnames law

The Observer reports that Mongolia is introducing last names in order to be able to use a telephone book. But too many of them named themselves after Genghis Khan (that’s what I would have chosen myself too). The 1997 surnames law was ignored till an ID card system was introduced recently.

I seem to recall a similar problem existing in Iceland.

bq. Icelanders have a given name, plus the name of (usually) their father with an attached “-son” for boys and “-dóttir” for girls. So, Jón’s son Gunnar is called Gunnar Jónsson, and his daughter Njóla is called Njóla Jónsdóttir. Because of this lack of family names, telephone directories are arranged by given names – using the above example, you’d find Gunnar Jónsson under “G”, and Njóla Jónsdóttir under “N” in the phone book. In an effort to preserve national identity, all foreigners taking Icelandic citizenship must also take an Icelandic name.

Don’t know if David stayed in Iceland long enough to look at a phone book.

One thought on “Mongolian surnames law

  1. I did, and it really didn’t strike me as being all that odd. Maybe that’s because I knew about it in advance.

    It’s quite interesting to read all the things that guidebooks and language books tell you about the patronym system; they really make a big deal of it. They inform you, correctly, that even newspapers will refer to the prime minister simply as “Davíð” in headlines. This is true – but, when necessary, they’ll also write his surname within the text of an article, to distinguish him from other “Davíð”s, I suppose. I don’t think you’ll ever see the surname being used alone, though.

    Thinking about it, a British newspaper headline might also simply mention “Tony” – if they were being favourable towards him and they were being very informal, although I admit it isn’t as commonplace as in Iceland.

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