What it's in a name?

During my stay in Europe, many were either fascinated or taken-a-back by my name. Over the years, I have tried to explain it in different ways. Finally, I decided to add a small note in my homepage.

My full name in European format (i. e. in the first and last name order) is Shankaranarayanan Subramaniam. The last name is not my surname, it is my father's name. There is a interesting piece of history for this nomenclature.

I hail from Tamil Nadu where, traditionally, the names are written in a different format, i. e., Initial and the first name. In my case, it is S. Shankaranarayanan. I use this in all my scientific publications.

Since my first name is too long(!!!), I am often referred by --- rather anglicized version --- shanki! This short form was not invented by me. Roshan Jacob George, friend from IIT-Madras, came up with the nick-name shanki when we tried several login names to create an account in hotmail.

Officially, at ICG, I was referred to as Shanki Subramaniam!

History of names

In the early 20th century, the nomenclature for an individual name was A. B. C. D where A is the village name, B is father's name, C is the given name and D is the sur-name. Practical use was that the full name was sufficient for an individual to receive a letter without any postal address!

However, when people settled at different places (due to work), people realised that the village name does not make sense any more and was removed. Due to social movement, people removed the sur-names. [The sur-names are the caste names in Tamil Nadu.] This leaves us with the current nomenclature B. C where B is the father's name and C is the given name.