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Meet Ngoc Anh

My name's Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh (with some tone marks in Vietnamese), from Vietnam. Reading your mails I found that people here are living in a big international family and I hope we can help each other to improve our English. You're discussing names. I think is an interesting topic as names let us know many things about the history and traditions of a nation.

The full name of a Vietnamese usually includes surname (family name), middle name and first name. The order in a name is like in Chinese but we never call a person by his family name as do Chinese people. Vietnamese names traditionally include three words but they tend to be longer.

Family name: Usually one word, but in some families it includes a middle name. My family name (Nguyen) is the most popular in Vietnam (like Kim in Korea) and there are some other popular family names, such as Tran, Pham, and Le. The reason is in the ancient dynasties, if a mandarin made a feat of valour, he would be decorated by being given the King's family name, and the Nguyen, Tran, and Le dynasties governed our country for several centuries. Nowadays, people, esp. people in the South, prefer to add the family name of the mother after the family name of the father, but it's considered to be a middle name. Women don't change their surnames when they get married.

Middle name: Traditionally, the middle name for women is Thi (which means "clan"). In my case, Nguyen Thi means of Nguyen clan. The most common middle name for men is Van. Now, young parents, esp. in urban areas don't like to give traditional middle names to their kids.

Last name: Unlike Westerners, we never give our child a name after the name of a friend or a relative or a neighbour as that action is disrespectful.

In the past (even around twenty or thirty years ago) parents didn't use nice names for their kids since they were afraid of ghosts taking the kids away (in death). Popular names were of flowers, fruits and crops and the most were names of ten heaven stems and twelve earth stems cos. except for the literal meaning of a name it helps everyone to remember the year of birth.

Names people go by in daily life are also varied. In northern country areas, when a couple have a baby, they call it by the child's name while it's young since it would be disrespectful if you called an old person by his/her name. In the central provinces, the sex of the first child will be added in front of the father's name when they name him. Or in the south, daily names include the order of the child (but always from the second) + his/her name.

There's still much to say about this topic. Please correct me if I've made any mistakes.

The mistakes are all corrected - Vance

I am very happy that you like my writing and thank you for your help, Vance. I wish I could joined more discussions with you all but actually I am too busy these days.

As I wrote, my first name is Ngoc Anh, which formally means Sparkle Pearl, but you can call me either Ngoc Anh or Anh. You may know that many Vietnamese words have Chinese origin. My name does too. Anh is the same as Ying (sparkle) in Chinese (please correct, Chinese webheads, if I have made a dictation error because I learned your language nearly ten years ago but only for 2 months) . "Ngoc" has a mark for low constricted tone which is very difficult for foreigners to pronounce, so you'd better call me Anh as some people do (nearly same as Ann in English, right?).

My parents must have been very modern 30 years ago when they chose that name for me. My name is a kind (and may be the only) of exception in the Vietnamese naming system because as I explained, the naming system order is normally surname (usually one word, the only exception that I know of is of women descendants of last Nguyen's King which include 4 words), middle name (depending on how erudite or romantic or modern are the grandparents or parents) and only the last word of the name are formally considered to be first name. But in my case Ngoc Anh is the first name while it can be modified to dozens of others .... Anh (ex Hong Anh, Viet Anh...). Anh has the same homophone with "brother" in Vietnamese so the usual joke to girls who are named Anh is "You are a girl, but why do I have to call you brother?"

One thing I just found out last year when my Dad died was that people would be given another name when he/she died (I have no comment on this cos. it's a custom) and that name is used for praying. A funny thing related to names in the past is that mentioning words similar to or homonymous with the kings' names were prohibited. So English people would have found another word to express V if the Victoria Queen died the same way.

Vietnamese cooking and traditions (Dec 2002)

Year end is our busiest time. I have dived too deep in work. Now I don't even have time to go to Net cafe to check mails as usual ( I don't have my own PC) but I am very happy that " our family" is now bigger and bigger with more students, more topics and there is another TI meeting every Saturday, though 16 GMT isn't convenience for me (11 PM in Vietnam) .

Now I want to do my promise when I talk to webheads in a Tapped In meeting that I will tell you about Vietnamese food.

As same as many other Asian nations, rice is the main food in the meals of Vietnamese. There are 2 kinds of rice: glutinous which is often used to sacrifice or make cakes and non glutinous which is steamed for daily meal or used to make noodles ( or cakes also). Extra for woman webheads : for our daily meals, rice is put to boiled water so that rice absorbs all water some minutes after reboiled . Then turn down the fire around 10 minute. There are many races of rice, each of them requires different quantity of water, even of the same race but produced in different time so the skill and experience is asked, because if you put only some spoon of water more or less, or the heat a little more or less, nobody want to eat. And then take care if you live with your mother in law.)

Extra for men webheads : We have a saying " Your wife is your rice, your lover is your ph€ ¦ë (Vietnamese noodle)". The reason is ph€ ¦ë's much more delicious than rice, but you can't have it instead of rice.

In the past, cooking festivals were held annually in spring in many villages .Except a pan and rice, a girl who joined a cooking contest would be handled a strange small child, some sugar canes and a frog in a plate. In a specified time, she must eat sugar cane and use its dregs to cook rice, meanwhile she must to look after the child and keep the frog not to jump out of the plate. So fun, isn't it?

Vol 2 will be released soon.

Ngoc Anh

P.S I wrote the above 3 weeks ago but don't have time to type and send. It's wedding season in Vietnam ( from Lunar Oct. to Lunar Mar. next year. Vietnamese have custom to invite all friends and neighbours and colleges of all people in family and all their relatives to wedding party ( an average wedding party usually receive around 400 - 500 people). In good days (chosen by bride and groom's families) , a person may be invited to many parties and we call that € ¦­" run wedding party show". We hardly make a plan in these days. It's not including funerals and new house parties...

Aiden replies to this, Dec 2002

This is very interesting, Anh. But as someone who is married, I believe I am the type who doesn't like sharing my husband with anyone else, much more, a lover! As a wife, I would feel betrayed by my husband who promised me that he'd love me and be loyal to me 'till death do us part'. Infidelity is a serious offense, at least to me. Many people say that the 'spark' is usually lost the moment you tie the knot. I think, you will only lose it if you let it. So, for wives out there, be a wife and a lover at the same time. Don't treat the latter as simply a means of pleasing your husband, make it work for you, too. Enjoy it as much as a lover would.

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Last updated: December 21, 2002