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Terms of Address

Terms of Address

Terms of Address

(OP)
I just got an e-mail from someone who had three names that were unfamiliar to me (I could not tell for certain which name was the family name and which were given names), but after the three names the person put "(Ms)" so I'm assuming it is a female person.  I would like to respond formally with "Ms familyname", but I don't have a clue which name that would be.  I'm pretty sure that it isn't the middle name, but does anyone have a clue how to guess if it is the first or last?  How big a screw up is it if I get it wrong?

The person lives in Singapore which is about as multi-cultural a place as exists on the globe.  I hope this doesn't come across as "profiling", but the sound of the three names feels like it is from one of the predominantly Muslim cultures is that helps.

David

RE: Terms of Address

Faced with that, I would tend to reply using the name exactly as the person wrote it as an address, and just omit a salutation.

RE: Terms of Address

There might be a clue in the email header.

Facebook is popular in Singapore, she might be a member.

 

RE: Terms of Address

What is the name? if in doubt just put the whole name.  It helps that in Singapore they are more relaxed with such errors, thus the lady has put Ms.  In Malaysia, you would be expected to know, like in the US if someone was called Mary.

Malay names vary a lot in form, typically arabic and go first to last but the middle names don't seem to be used as often, not counting bin (son of) or binti (daughter of) linked to the fathers name.  There are titles for important people which get tagged on the front, and then just random extras.

The chinese names take some knowing.  Normally in Chinese they go family, first, middle.  First and middle are actually indivisible.  Particularly in Singapore with western influence, they might flip the family name to the back.  And to make matters worse, a lot of the guys will be called by their family name.  Pays to just learn the common family names.

RE: Terms of Address

(OP)
I'm reluctant to post her name, and if I knew enough to make up a meaningful pseudonym I would have had my answer.  The first name in the list was "Murni", but I've never seen that name before.

She could easily be a Facebook member, but I'm not and really don't want to re-install that disaster on my computers.  She is on LinkedIn, but her profile doesn't help decipher how to address her.

I bit the bullet and used the third name.  I was hoping for a discussion of how to resolve this issue in the future.

David

RE: Terms of Address

Most people aren't severly off put if you use the wrong name as the family name.  Most people who interact across a cultural boarder are used to occasional errors like this.  If you add a p.s. that asks if you addressed someone correctly you've shown your cross cultural sensitivtiy and given someone the opening to give you a direct answer without being harsh.  Don't vex over it too much.

-Kirby

Kirby Wilkerson

Remember, first define the problem, then solve it.

RE: Terms of Address

I don't know Kirby, I got pretty sick of our barely competent field support guy from somewhere in Asia (I forget exactly which country sorry) calling me just by my surname all the time.

The first few times I shrugged it off as cultural but as he got nastier and less competent in our exchanges it got harder.

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Terms of Address

yanks tend to do that, use your surname, i guess they think that using your given name is too personal.

brits not so much ... given name usually, surname if you're looking for a fight.

RE: Terms of Address

The guy wasn't a yank, he was Asian (again I'm sorry I forget which nationality).

His emails would go something like.

"Smith

The design no work.  I try fix by randomly turning screws all over the machine and removing some parts customer no like.  You no design good machine..."

Then, after I'd told them the actual fix for the umpteenth time, including diagrams & photo's and references to previous occurances ... the email would go something like:

"Smith

Shame you no tell me fix last week when we first tell you problem.

Machine now working..."

In fairness, he had a point, the design sucked.  However, there were some fairly consistent fixes that no matter how I tried I just couldn't get them to accept.
 

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies http://eng-tips.com/market.cfm? (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

RE: Terms of Address

Yeah, us yanks do get touchy. I've had to remind people many times my name is MR. A-Hole.

RE: Terms of Address

I get really p**sed off by unknown bright young things calling me up and addressing me by my first name as if we have met before or been introduced and as if we are equals.... but since I don't know him and am not interested in buying whatever he is selling, I resent the familiarity.
And, when you get old and grumpy like me, you appreciate someone calling you "Sir" or Mr JMW.

My Grandfather was a civilian in Naval Intelligence during the war (WWII) and whenever anyone came in to see him, usually naval officers in uniform, they'd step onto his carpet, come to attention in front of his desk and say "Morning sir, any orders for me today?"
Then he sent his carpet for cleaning and under whatever  hierarchical rules apply in the civil service it was decided he wasn't entitled to a carpet. After that, anyone coming to see him would feel no carpet underfoot, perch on the side of his desk, light up a cigarette and ask "Anything for me today, old boy?"
Because he was ex cavalry, one of his Polish cavalry officers decided he was at least a Major.... either in his former army rank or as a current rank. Unlike me, he was rather amusedd by the familiarity.

JMW
www.ViscoAnalyser.com

 

RE: Terms of Address

KENAT,

O.K. I'll modify my statement to most people aren't severly off put if you use the wrong name as the family name once.  Anyone who continues to make the same mistake after being corrected is in need of economic disincentives for continued errors.  And personally it annoys me to no end when someone on the shop floor calls me sir.  We're coworkers, my names Kirby and I don't sign your paycheck.

-Kirby

Kirby Wilkerson

Remember, first define the problem, then solve it.

RE: Terms of Address

(OP)
As I've gotten older ("than dirt" my kids say), calling me "Mr." or "Sir" bothers me less and less.  At 30 I would say "Mr. Simpson is a TV character".  At 40 I'd say "call me David".  At 50 I'd say "what can I do for you?".  As I approach 60 I say "what was that again?".  The cute replies just become progressively more work than they are collectively worth.

David

RE: Terms of Address

I'm from the (American) south, and I call everyone who is reasonably my age or older "sir" or "ma'am".  If I hear someone's name I try to pronounce it correctly, i.e. as they say it, not that I succeed.  Experience working with the military has hardened the "sir" or "ma'am" habit.  
It really irks me, no disrespect to the above posters, when someone protests my use of a term of respect.  It means to me that they have no breeding or are some sort of arrested development character.  
To the original post, I try to respond in the same manner as someone signs their e-mail.  If they sign it "Dave", I respond "Dave".  If they sign "David", I respond "David".  If they sign Yung-Eun Yang or Y.E. Yang (little golf joke there), I respond in kind.

RE: Terms of Address

(OP)
jgailla,
I try to do the same.  She addressed me as "Mr. Simpson".  I wanted to address her in the same manner, but I felt that if I got it wrong (i.e., "Ms firstname") then I would appear insensitive to her culture.  

It is now two days later and we've exchanged 3 e-mails and I still have no idea.  On the last one I truncated my standard signature to just my first name.  We'll see if she picks up on it.

Her degrees are from Oklahoma and London so she must know how difficult this is for a Southern Boy, so she might just be messing with me.

David

RE: Terms of Address

Being from New Zealand, our culture (or lack of it maybe) is of a very informal nature.  No-one ever used Sir outside of school, unless you bumped into Edmund Hilliary or the Prime Minister walking home from work.

This however got me into all kinds of trouble with my American father in law.  The kind of trouble that, after a few beers my friends start asking "tell us again about the time you met your father in law".

RE: Terms of Address

So, step over into the pub and have a couple of virtuals and 'tell us how you met your father-in-law.

rmw

RE: Terms of Address

Why do you need a salutation at all in an email?  You have a perfectly good "To:" header.

Hg
 

Eng-Tips policies:  FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Terms of Address

(OP)
HgTX,
That is a very good question.  My only answer was that she started it.  She addressed me as "Dear Mr. Simpson" and it seemed dismissive for me to just start typing.  I was trying to make a good impression (she's considering hiring me to teach a class), and I was nervous that messing up something that is probably obvious to her might mess that up.

David

RE: Terms of Address

Being from the (American) south, as jgailla noted, I have also been taught the use of "Sir" and "Ma'am" and have used those.

It got me into a bit of trouble when I went to basic training in the Army.  I made the mistake of calling my drill instructor "Sir".  Got the standard military enlisted response "Don't call me "Sir"..I work for a living".

David..now that you have developed a rapport of sorts, you could probably just ask her how she should be addressed.  It would tell her that you are genuinely interested in ascribing to her cultural differences and it shows you value correctness and accuracy...traits that increase your value as a consultant.

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