LETTER TO EDITOR
THE TAIPEI TIMES
re: "The name game"
English-language newspapers in Japan have for many years been writing the names of Japanese people following the Western style: given name, surname. In addition, many Japanese businessmen and politicians have English name cards that follow the same Western style. I feel that it is time for Taiwan for start following this trend.
Instead of writing President “Ma Ying-jeou” (馬英九) in the English-language newspapers here in and in New York and London, let’s start writing his name as “Ying-jeou Ma.” As for former presidents, let’s refer to them as “Teng-hui Lee” (李登輝) and “Shui-bian Chen” (陳水扁). After all, the English-language newspapers in Taiwan call Japanese politicians by their first and then last names —“Junichiro Koizumi” and “Yukio Hatoyama” — for example, and those names are well-known in the West.
There’s another reason I suggest writing Taiwanese names in English news stories in the Western style: This style will help differentiate Taiwan from China, and readers in the West will come to understand that “Ying-jeou Ma” must be from Taiwan, since he uses the new system of naming, while Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) must be from China, since he uses the old system.
There is already a small difference between the way names are written in English in China and Taiwan: Notice that it’s “Ma Ying-jeou” with a hyphen between “Ying” and “jeou,” while Chinese do not usually include hyphens when Romanizing their names.
This way, foreigners understand that Hu Jintao is from China, while Ma Ying-jeou (or in the new system “Ying-jeou Ma”) is from Taiwan.