Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Trivial observations on names

1. Why do people in the States often have no problem with identifying the family name (Yao) and the first name (Ming) of the NBA player Yao Ming, yet many keep writing letters (even of the nature of soliciting) starting with "Dear Professor An Wan or Dear Professor Ben-Cheng Deng", but never Dear Professor An, Dear Professor Wan, Dear Professor Deng, or even Dear Professor Ben-Cheng? In western society, we often hear: "Call me Joe" or "Friendship begins with a letter F -- on the first name basis." Smart as many appear to be, can we take risk to interpret this as some kind of "on first name basis" reversal?

2. How often can you see on the upper-right or upper-left corner in a couse syllabus the professor teaching the course puts his (resp. her) name as Professor John Doe (resp. Professor Jane Doe)? And have you ever seen the similar style appearing at the end of the letter?

3. Why on earth will a person with first name as John and family name as Doe ask his friends or acquaintances to call him simply by Doe, instead of John? Why would one ever want to do it?

4. Suppose I called Professor John Doe. At the first ring, I heard
(A) John Doe speaking
(B) Hi, this is John
(C) John speaking
(D) This is Professor Doe