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Indexing Vietnamese Names

From: David Biggs
Date: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:04 PM

Dear Colleagues-

Happy August! (I know, my plan for a business meeting blog have stalled, but more on that later.) I have an insanely nerdy, nitpicky question about Vietnamese names in book indexes.

Has anyone noticed the wholly confusing rule of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) with regard to indexing Vietnamese names? Here's the latest (16th Ed.) rule:


16.86 - Indexing Vietnamese names

Vietnamese names consist of three elements, the family name being the first. Since Vietnamese persons are usually referred to by the last part of their given names (Premier Diem, General Giap), they are best indexed under that form.

Diem, Ngo Dinh [cross-reference under Ngo Dinh Diem]
Giap, Vo Nguyen [cross-reference under Vo Nguyen Giap]


I did a quick survey of some titles on my shelf and I noticed what might be a trend.

1. All of the recent books published by authors in the Vietnam Studies area indexed Vietnamese names last name first (ie Ngo Dinh Diem) with no cross-references (ie Diem, Ngo Dinh. See Ngo Dinh Diem).

2. Old classics such as Francis Fitzgerald's Fire in the Lake likewise index Vietnamese names last name first. For popular names like "Diem," they list "Diem, Ngo Dinh" but then cross-reference to "Ngo Dinh Diem" rather than the present CMOS rule which is reverse.

3. Newer books primarily on the war by authors (likely with limited knowledge of Vietnamese language) such as A.J. Langguth's Our Vietnam: The War 1954-1975 tend to list both versions of names but generally follow the CMOS rule, thus referring "Ngo Dinh Diem" to "See Diem, Ngo Dinh". However, in the same book, less popular names like "Hoang Van Thai" or "Ngo Dinh Thuc" are only listed last name first so its inconsistent. "Ho Chi Minh," likewise, is not cross-referenced to "Minh, Ho Chi" - because its an alias? "Nguyen Ai Quoc" doesn't either, nor does it even "See also Ho Chi Minh." Reading this index closely, I am wondering what was the cutoff? Why did Diem and Nhu get the special treatment, but not brother Thuc?

My point is that following the CMOS rule leads to chaos in a book index. Personally, I like opting for the Fitzgerald approach. If one is going to index a commonly used first name like "Giap" or "Diem", it should cross-refer to "Vo Nguyen Giap" or "Ngo Dinh Diem" and not vice-versa. Do any members have a line in with Chicago Press who may want to point this out? Thoughts?

- David

David Biggs
Department of History
University of California - Riverside


From: Tai, Hue-Tam Ho
Date: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 12:26 PM

I don't have a line to CMOS. But I have had some conversation in the past with librarians about cataloguing issues.
I also had to re-do my own index last winter, partly because the indexer hand mangled Vietnamese names. Eg, Bao Luong, my aunt's pseudonym, got listed as Bao, Luong. I doubt anyone working in English would have indexed the pseudonym as Precious, Honesty; but that was what it amounted to.

I am not in favor of messing with Vietnamese word order if only because most people who do the cataloguing don't know Vietnamese enough to know whether they are dealing with a surname, a given name, part of a pseudonym or a title as in Ton That Thien in which Ton That is a title signifying membership in the Nguyen royal clan so that Ton, That Thuyet would be nonsense. Our colleague Cong Huyen Ton Nu Nha Trang has the title of Cong Huyen Ton Nu; as with Ton That Thien, her family name is Nguyen. It is not used, just as the family name of members of the British royal family is not used. But no one would think of listing Prince Charles as Prince, Charles, or Charles, Prince.

You can infer from this rant that spending Christmas re-doing my index was no fun.

Hue-Tam Ho Tai
Kenneth T. Young Professor
of Sino-Vietnamese History

From: Daniel C. Tsang
Date: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 6:01 PM

As a sometime indexer, including pf Ralph McGehee's Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA (1983) -- he spent some time in Vietnam -- my index also included many Vietnamese names. I disagree with the Chicago Manual and did it by surname etc., e.g. Nguyen Van Thieu. Incidentally, I also indexed the CIA redactions -- under "CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) - censorship - specific deletions from this book"! :)


PS Excerpts of Deadly Deceits online: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/CIA/Deadly_Deceits.html

Daniel C. Tsang
Data Librarian
Bibliographer for Asian American Studies,
Economics, & Political Science
University of California, Irvine


From: Steve Denney
Date: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 7:58 PM

The Library of Congress or a participating library in the NACO program
(Name Authority Cooperative Program of the Program for Cooperative
Cataloging), is responsible for creating authorized subject and name
headings. I am pretty sure those who create such authorized headings for
Vietnamese works would be fluent in Vietnamese. See
http://www.loc.gov/catdir/pcc/naco/nacopara.html for more information on
this program.

Authorized name headings for Vietnamese authors or other authors would
normally fall into one of two categories: the real name of the author or
the pen name. If it is a pen name, in the case of Vietnamese authors
there would be no comma, just the name listed in the same order as on the
work. On the other hand if it is the real name, the name would also
normally be listed in the same order as on the published work, but with
a comma separating the family name from the remainder of the name.

Often, though, a cataloger might find no record for the work to be
catalogued, and no authority record for the author (or editor) listed, in
which case the cataloger will create a record for the work, including the
name of the author, even though it may not be an authority record. So
when mistakes of the kind you describe are made, they could be made by
those creating authority records, but more likely by the individual
cataloger creating a new record.

In the OCLC database used by catalogers, we find in the authority records
alternative headings, but we are to use only the authorized one. In some
cases the authorized name heading will include year of birth, in other
cases not.

Steve Denney
library assistant, UC Berkeley

From: Matthew Steinglass
Date: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 8:07 PM


The truly impossible-to-sort-out issue, at least for us inkstained wretches, is that of Vietnamese living abroad (who have taken varying approaches to Europeanization of names) who then return to Vietnam on vacation or for business and have something newsworthy happen to them. Those who have reversed their name order (Nguyen Tran becoming Tran Nguyen after moving to the US, say) would be referred to as Mr Nguyen under American rules or Mr Tran under Vietnamese rules. Further confusing the issue, Vietnamese newspapers often take it upon themselves to re-reverse the names when reporting them, without making it clear whether they've reversed them from their American name order or not. Sometimes they accidentally reverse the order of names that were never reversed.

Basically, try not to have anything newsworthy happen to you when you come to Vietnam.


From: Tai, Hue-Tam Ho
Date: Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 8:32 PM


Thanks for bringing this up. As David and others on VSG know, I'm currently editing a volume; the process has reinforced my belief in the wisdom of not using diacritics in the text instead of either using them inconsistently or erroneously. I've seen too many books and articles riddled with wrong diacritics by authors who are fluent in Vietnamese but may not have done a good enough job of proof-reading. It gives readers a false sense of accuracy.

The conversations I had with cataloguers were held before LOC took up the majority of the cataloguing work. Most of the university libraries had cataloguers who did not know Vietnamese--hence those conversations. But I think the CMOS is not directed at them. Rather, it is directed at people like my hapless indexer

As for my name, it's one that got scrambled through marriage, American-style. it confuses Americans and Vietnamese alike and it leads to my being listed in different places in bibliographies.


From: David Biggs
Date: Sat, Aug 28, 2010 at 12:08 PM

Dear List-

Re coming up with a better rule, feel free to submit candidates on the general list-serv! (If anyone feels so inclined.) Hue-Tam, your name is a fascinating example, too, of the changing styles both in Vietnamese American naming conventions and in ways that Vietnamese names and terms were described in the past. For example, many English writers in the 1950s and 60s hyphenated first names of Vietnamese so compound first names such as Hue-Tam didn't get orphaned. Some publications from that period also hyphenated Vietnamese terms in English texts, including many government publications. In my index, Hue-Tam, your name follows the form used in your books, so no diacritics and "Tai, Hue-Tam Ho." That reflects the American characteristic of the name, while Nguyễn Hiến Lê (Bảy ngày trong Đồng Tháp Mười, 1954) is "Nguyễn Hiến Lê".

There is certainly a politics and a culture implicit in word choice and especially cross referencing. I wonder if members have thoughts about how to index the wars? First Indochina War? American War?

- D


From: Daniel C. Tsang
Date: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 11:09 AM

I suggest the Chicago Manual (16th edition) [which I read in a bookstore, our has not been ordered yet] can just follow its own advice on indexing Chinese names, inter alia:

Cross references are needed only if alternative forms are used in the text. ... Since the family name precedes the given name in Chinese usage, names are not inverted in the index...

One exception strangely, in westernized Chinese names, a comma can be placed after the surname.]

Given the similarity in name structure with Chinese names, I think this could work...

Per Hue-Tam, my own Chinese name (as Anglicized in Hong Kong) is hyphenated, e.g. Tsang Chun-Tuen.

However, when written with my English name, it has this order, Daniel Chun-Tuen Tsang or Tsang Chun-Tuen, Daniel. The point is Chun-Tuen is taken as the name, not just Tuen.

As readers in the U.S. will notice, when Vietnamese names show up in U.S. news accounts, for example, a name like TRAN Anh Vu, would likely be written as Vu Anh Tran, different from the order of my Chinese name as Anglicized in HK.


Daniel C. Tsang
Data Librarian
Bibliographer for Asian American Studies,
Economics, & Political Science
University of California, Irvine


From: Tai, Hue-Tam Ho
Date: Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 12:00 PM

I think the Chinese model is a good one to follow in general. Not using commas would avoid having to worry about whether one is dealing with a title (such as Ton That) or a pen name (such as Hoang Dao).

I am very happy my parents hyphenated my name. I have to think hard when I see a name such as Vu Anh Tran. Is the name Vu Anh or Anh Vu? Sometimes one can guess, but not always. And then the placing of Thi in women's names. I have seen Thi xxx Nguyen. Ugh.


From: Dan Duffy
Date: Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 11:16 AM


David, the Wikivietlit entry on alphabetizing and indexing Vietnamese names came in just as my day job tanked with the recession and with it all dough for outside contractors. But I just took a look at the copy and it's not too far off from done.

So I have posted the raw copy at Wikivietlit as "Alphabetizing and Indexing Vietnamese Names", by Vo Tay Cuong, at <http://www.vietnamlit.org/wiki/index.php?title=Indexing_Vietnamese_names>

VTC is a pseudonym for a career professional copy-editor at one of our distinguished publishing projects in the humanities who had approached me for advice on this issue. He took comments I then solicited from vsg about this time last year and prepared a memo for his organization, who kindly granted us the right to print it provided we do not disclose the identity of the author or of his or her employers.

The entry as it stands does not address the issue you raise of cross-referencing. I will work on that as I edit the entry in the moment I take each morning to review changes to the wiki. It will take many mornings. Others are free to register with the wiki and make any changes or suggest them on the discussion tab.

When the entry is presentable I will ask Paula Duffy who I should I bring the issue to at Chicago for the next issue of the wonderful Manual. I had a hilarious time, by the way, trying to find the equivalent textual authority for French-language publishing to put this question to.


From: Daniel C. Tsang
Date: Thu, Sep 9, 2010 at 1:07 PM

Thanks Dan for posting this!

VTC's instruction here, referring to the use of commas, if applied to an index, reflects the Chicago Manual's guidance for indexing Chinese names (see earlier email of mine):

The Vietnamese and Vietnamese American authors whose works are listed here have been alphabetized according to family name. If the author is known by and referred to in the traditional sequence of family name–middle name–given name, then this sequence is followed and no comma is used in the bibliography (e.g., Nguyen Thi Dinh in the text, Nguyen Thi Dinh in the bibliography). If, however, the author is known by and referred to in the Westernized style of given name first, family name last, then the name has been inverted and a comma added (e.g., Kien Nguyen in the text; Nguyen, Kien in the bibliography).
Retrieved from "http://www.vietnamlit.org/wiki/index.php?title=Alphabetizing_and_Indexing_Vietnamese_names"


Dan Tsang.

Daniel C. Tsang
Data Librarian
Bibliographer for Asian American Studies,
Economics, & Political Science
University of California, Irvine

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