"What's in a name? The poet is Wilde, but his poetry's tame."
– Punch, 25th June, 1881 (1)
Here is one of a dozen letters we have received since the interview appeared:
Pete Casso of Barcelona, Spain wrote: "Can Vishy or Anand not do a better
job explaining what the 'Vishy' part and the 'Anand' part of the combined name
are? After reading the interview I'm more confused than before on the father-to-son
and husband-wife naming conventions in his family! – Pete, a fan of either
Vishy or Anand."
Okay Pete, here goes:
He was named "Anand" at birth, and as a good South Indian Brahmin
the name of his father was tagged on, to distinguish him from the hundreds
of thousands of other Anands that walk the land. The system is simple: you
get a name, one name, and add it to your father's name. This is similar to
the Icelandic tradition, except the "son" part (as in Gustavson,
Perutursson, etc.) is left out.
Anand with his parents at home in Madras – many years ago, before the
invention of colour photography
Now Anand's father is Viswanathan, an affable Railway executive who loves
golf. So it became Viswanathan Anand, which translates roughly to Viswanathan's
son Anand. The spelling is correct, the 's' is usually pronounced "Vish..",
which is why the name is sometimes misspelled Vishwanathan. The stress (if
any) is on the first syllable: VISH-wah-nah-thaan – with all the 'a's
as in the English 'bath'.
Quick IQ quiz: Anand's father is Krishnamurthy Viswanathan. What is Anand's
Now the correct way to address Anand is as follows:
- If you are a stranger and want to show respect call him Mr Anand;
- If you are a friend or in informal circumstances (in a gym or at a chess
tournament) call him Anand;
- Never call him Mr Viswanathan. That would be simply silly – an unexpected
mention of his father.
When Anand first came to visit and stay we all called him Anand (what else).
He was 17 at the time. Some years later – I believe it was during an
event in Las Palmas and it was Max Dlugy, but I could be mistaken – I
first heard someone refer to him as "Vishy". I thought this was quite
rude and asked Anand about it. "No, I'm cool with that", he said.
So Vishy it became, and over the years people started calling him Vishy Anand.
Mr and Mrs Anand
When Anand got married his wife Aruna became Aruna Anand. I don't know why
in the case of women it appears to be that way around, but I have also heard
Anand being referred to as Anand Viswanathan, so maybe it is interchangable.
The polite form of address is Mrs Anand, if you know her well you can call
her Aruna. (Interestingly her father's name is Ananth, so before her marriage
she was Aruna Ananth – talk about minimizing the change!). When they
are together Aruna calls him Anand, as in "Aaanand, tell him to stop teasing
me!" When she talks about him to other people she may call him Vishy,
probably because she knows they will otherwise be confused.
Patronymics in Russia
In Russia your full name comprises a first name (imia); a patronymic (otchestvo);
and surname (familiya). A person’s otchestvo is really important to know.
My first raw encounter with the system was in the early eighties when I was
visiting Moscow with Ken Thompson, the computer
chess pionieer scientist who also invented Unix. He came in from New York,
I from Hamburg, and we were put into different hotels. Since I could not locate
him I decided to call our host, ex world champion Mikhail Botvinnik. I tried,
but someone spoke to me in Russian.
So I asked my Intourist guide to call for me. "You want to make phone
call with great champion Botvinnik?" he asked in disbelief? When I convinced
him it was okay he said he would do it, but needed to know Botvinnik's otchestvo.
His what? "What is his father name?" he repeated in clarification.
"I don't know," I said impatiently, "just call him please."
Why did he want to know Botvinnik's father's name?
But my Intourist guide was adamant. He actually went down the street to a
bookstore and came back triumphantly with the information he needed to be able
to call Botvinnik: Moiseevich, son of Moise (Moses). Without that he simply
couldn't call, it would have been too rude to call him Mr Botvinnik.
This is how the system works:
- If you are from the West and you don't know him well, call him Mr Kasparov;
- If you are Russian and in a formal situation you'd better know that his
father was Kim, so you call him Garry Kimovitch;
- If you are from the West and want to impress him, call him Garry Kimovitch.
I use Kimovitch in mock reproach ("You've got to get your act together,
Garry Kimovitch!") or if I am really, really impressed by something, like
when he has just finished a successful keynote
address in front of a thousand computer experts in Barcelona.
Russians of course know how to build patronymics. Patronymics simply mean
"son (daughter) of" and are formed by adding a suffix to the father's
name; -ovich/evich for a boy, -ovna/evna for a girl.
Note that in Joanne Pittaway's article "Ten
Years in Ten Days" she respectfully refers to Garry's mother as Klara
Shagenovna. Joanne has lived in Russia and knows the system. If Joanne herself
were Russian her name would be Zhanna Mikhailovna Pittaway, since her father's
name is Michael. To illustrate further, Joanne’s brother is called Barry,
hence his name would be Barry Mikhailovich Pittaway. You can have a lot of
fun making yourself sound very Russian by working out your patronymic.
Many of our readers have noticed that lots of Russian surnames end in –ov/-ev,
or –iy/oy Kaspar-ov, Kamsk-y. The more observant amongst them have also noticed
that women’s’ surnames end differently; -ova/-eva, or –aya.
When a surname ends in ov/ev it is simply treated like a noun. Feminine nouns
end, broadly speaking, in a or ya. When Garry Kimovitch Kasparov married Julia,
she became Julia (patronymic) Kasparov-a. When Garry’s daughter was born,
she was christened Polina Garrievna Kasparova. Garry also has a son, Vadim.
What would his full name be? Answer below.*
Surnames that end in iy/oy have adjectival endings (Dostoyevsk-iy, Tolst-oy).
Yes, they are nouns, but the way they change according to gender and case is
just like an adjective. The wife of Dostoyevsk-iy would be Dostoyevsk-aya.
The daughter of Tolst-oy would be Tolst-aya.
As for the origin of typical Russian surnames; the -ov/-ev is (confusingly)
the ending given to nouns in the genitive plural. So, originally these surnames
probably meant 'of the family', 'of the region' etc. Maybe it's akin to 'van
der' or 'von' in Dutch or German. The adjectival ending surnames were probably
formed along the same lines: to describe places/professions/characteristics
of ancestors in the mists of time.
It should be remembered that there are other endings for surnames in Russia.
Putin, Lenin, Pushkin for instance. Surnames can be different for all sorts
of reasons. They can be of foreign in origin, Jewish surnames, Muslim, etc.
But usually (if anything can be described as usual in the Russian language),
these will be adapted to show the gender of their possessor.
Thanks to Joanne Pittaway for clarifying a number of points in the above.
If you want to know more about the subject here's a good link: Paul
Goldschmidt's Dictionary of Russian Names
*Garry’s son is called Vadim Garrievich Kasparov.
Patronymics in general
Icelanders, as mentioned above, are named after their fathers. Magnus
Ragnarsson's father's first name would be Ragnar. If Ragnar also had a
daughter, her last name would be Ragnarsdottir. Ragnar himself would be
named after his father, something like Ragnar Gunnarsson. So people tend
to identify each other by first name and even entries in telephone directories
would typically be based on first names rather than last names.
Patronyms are also used in Greece, and can tell you from which region
a person comes: Peloponese "poulos", e.g. Petropoulos (son of
Petros); Crete "akis", e.g. Petrakis (son of Petros); Macedonia
"ides", e.g. Petrides (son of Petros); Island of Cephalonia "atos",
e.g. Petratos (son of Petros); Mani region os Peloponese "akos",
e.g. Petrakos (son of Petros); Asia Minor "oglou", e.g. Petroglou
(son of Petros) also used by the Turks. Use this to impress Greek players.
In Spanish culture – at least in Cuba and Puerto Rico – you
add your mother’s maiden name to the end of your name. That is the
name that is used to look someone up in the phone book. Jorge Menendez
becomes Jorge Menendez Donnell, and to find him in the Puerto Rican phone
book, one must look under Donnell. Narciso Rabell, who is the FIDE delegate
from Puerto Rico, is Narciso Rabell Mendez. However, when you speak with
them, you would address them as Jorge Menendez and Narciso Rabell.
The Iranian -zadeh means son of, as in Moshrefzadeh.
In the Arab world fathers will sometimes proudly attach the names of their
sons. "Abu" means father of, and Umm means mother of
(Ibn means son of, and Bint means daughter of). Abu Bakr and Abu Hamid
mean"father of" a son named Bakr or Hamid. This should help you
understand why in news reports you will often hear a Palestinian negotiator
referred to by name, followed by the additional information, e.g. the new
Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas – commonly known as Abu
The Fresian Dutch have '-ma' for son of, as in Anema = son of Ane, Jellema
= or son of Jelle.
The Welsh ap or p is a patronym builder. Pritchard comes from ap Richard,
son of Richard, and the common Welsh name Pugh is derived from ap Hugh.
Northern Germany had an extensive system of patronymics, with the oldest
son getting the name of his paternal grandfather, the second son that of
the maternal grandfather, with the first name being the genitive form of
the father's name. This complicated system was abolished in 1811 –
- In English we have Johnson, Jackson, Peterson, etc. Fitz- also denotes
"son of" (as in Fitzgerald, son of Gerald). But this prefix was
frequently used for illegitimate children of aristocrats (e.g. Fitzclarence
= son of the Duke of Clarence) and royalty (Fitzroy = son of the king). So
Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton, was the bastard son of Charles II and Barbara
Villiers, the Duchess of Cleveland. Fitz is the Norman form of the modern
French fils = son.
You can learn a lot about patronym in this Wordsmith
discussion. Some of the above information was gleaned from that excellent
Footnote on our quotation above
in a name? In 1881 Punch
magazine propagated the following jingle, printed as a caption to a caricature
of Wilde in front of a giant sunflower, the symbol of the Aesthetic Movement:
Aesthete of Aesthete's,
What's in a name?
The poet is WILDE,
But his poetry's tame”.
Wilde himself was not one to hold back. This is what he said about some
of his contemporaries:
- On novelist and poet George
Meredith: He uses poetry as a medium for writing prose.
- On artist James
McNeill Whistler: Mr Whistler always spelt art with a capital 'I'.
- On Charles Dickens: One must have a heart of stone to read the death of
Little Nell without laughing.
- On Longfellow: He was in himself a beautiful poem, more beautiful than
anything he ever wrote.
- On French poet Stéphane
Mallarmé: He is incomprehensible. Incomprehensibility is a gift,
not everyone has it.