The Japanese people didn't get the idea from Star Trek

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2015/06/30 15:18 +00:00, original URI:

rt Over the past few years, I have had the question asked four different times, in surprisingly similar ways, where people would look at Ro Laren of Bajor (played by Michelle Forbes) or Kira Nerys of Bajor (played by Nana Visitor) and ask whether that "more traditional" reversing of names that I mentioned in my 2008 blog post What's in a Name for Japanese and wondering whether that's where they got the idea from.

Whether the Japanese people were inspired by characters in Star Trek.

Well, I don't ordinarily feel comfortable speaking for the Japanese on matters relating to anything but calendars, but I feel like I have millennia on my side when I say that Japan was doing it first!

Just to take the Japanese given name Miho, which I see 25 of in the Microsoft global address book, I may not know whether any or all of them would prefer the name pattern of <surname><given name> when writing their name in Japanese even if they use the pattern of <given name><surname> when writing their name in English, I do have some known celebrities that I can look up in Wikipedia.


Miho Saeki (佐伯美穂 Saeki Miho) the now retired tennis player


Miho Hatori (羽鳥 美保 Hatori Miho) is a professional singer

These are just two examples of internationally known people from Japan who clearly have chosen to live across the American/Japanese line with name order issues covered. Miho (みほ, ミホ) is a feminine Japanese given name.

Miho can be written using different kanji characters and can mean: •実穂, "truth, ear of grain" •美穂, "beauty, ear of grain" •美保, "beauty, care" •未歩, "future (part of the word 未来), step" •美帆, "beauty, sail" •美歩, "beauty, walk"

The name can also be written in hiragana or katakana although the examples I found were not.

Is the "name reversal" depending on culture based on assimilation of culture or convenience or tradition or whatever and trying to analyze it kinda pointless to anyone who is not a cultural anthropologist who individuals from Japan might disagree with anyway?

It is most obviously an important localizability issue and a crucial World-Readiness issue to support whatever the hell the individual wants here, in particular given the long established precedent of what so many people in Japan have been doing for so long.

Fans of the Star Trek universe may have the fictional future of the United Federation of Planets owned by Paramount on their side.

But the Japanese people were doing it first. If anything, someone writing for Gene Roddenberry's universe got the idea from someone in Japan.

But if happen to see Michelle Forbes

or Nana Visitor

in costume at a ComicCon you can and should feel free to ask them what their opinion is.

You can tell them I sent you....

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2015-06-30 21:26:32:

from friend and colleague Brendan Elliott - Brendan Elliott Heh. The upper classes in Japan had been doing that for at least a thousand years, although if I recall properly, most commoners didn't actually get last names until the Edo period. Instead of occupations or "son of ~" as the "default last names" like you got many parts of the West, many Japanese last names are just whatever was nearby you geographically. Tanaka (田中) for example is literally "rice field + middle". When naming children in Japan, you can literally pick the sound you like and then pick whatever the heck characters you want that can make that sound. This includes the usage of rare pronunciations that don't appear in normal (non-name) words. In some cases, there can be literally ~20 ways to pronounce the same character when used in names... We went through this process using large multi-indexed naming books when we named our two kids.

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