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The problem (along with addresses) seems relatively simple until you think of all the variables that come along with it. Not even taking into account alphabets there are many gotchas in storing names correctly.
Take for instance names in the Latin American Countries and
Luis Alvaro Hernandez Garcia
How would that be stored? In most US-centric databases this is stored as either:
OR (as the case of OpenACS)
first_name — Luis middle_name — Alvaro last_name — Hernandez Garcia
While certainly this model is useful, it has its limitations. What if you decide to sort your data by Last Name? What is the correct part of last_name to sort on? Is it Hernandez or Garcia? These are easy Western Language problems that get much more complicated when dealing with Eastern European or other cultures where names aren't written in a first, middle, last order.
first_name — Luis Alvaro last_name — Hernandez Garcia
Here are some examples of cultural differences and you can see
the problems that are created:
Indonesia — Many (not all) Indonesians have only one name.
Korea — Some put family name first, others put family names last.
Hispanic — As well as the above example the rules can get very complex. Spanish men, for example, sometimes use their father's name and mother's name and separate them with a y (and).
Luis Alvaro Hernandez y Garcia
Other times they may hyphenate the last names:
Luis Alvaro Hernandez-Garcia
Now onto Hispanic women (and this also changes somewhat by country). In general a single women is similar to men. She takes her father's last name and adds her mothers maiden name. The difference comes about when the women marries. In this case the women still has the fathers last name but appends the husband's last name preceded by de (of):
Luisa Benavides Hernandez de Fernandez
As a side note, in Cuba the Wife keeps her name and so does the husband.
To complicate matters more, the Wife may be refered to as Luisa de Fernandez or simply Luisa Fernandez, as well as Sra Fernandez.