Nguyen is the Most Common Surname in Which Community
Smith is the most commonly used last name in the United States and an as per the census in 2018, approximately, 0.8 perfect of the Americans have Smith as their last name. Just like that Nguyen the most commonly used last in Vietnam. So that makes things a bit funny when you say Nguyen and so many people respond to it. About 30 to 40 persons of the total population use Nguyen as their last name and among the fourteen most famous last names in Vietnam accounts for over 90% of the total population.
In the United States, the last name gives a much of detail about a person, and the last name is significant. The last name indicates where you are from and tracks down to your village. It also tells about the profession of your family in the past, how and from where your ancestors emigrated, your religion and your social status. But Nguyen doesn’t indicate anything, and you can’t track down your family tree. It doesn’t tell anything except the fact that you are Vietnamese. People can’t even use the search engines to track your family history or anything because, with a massive amount of people with the same last name, you can’t tell which one is your family.
Vietnamese last names are known to be existing since 111 B.C. as that was just the start of the thousand year occupation of the country by the Han Dynasty in China. Because of the lack of written evidence, there is no evidence of the fact that how Vietnamese handled the names before that. If we track back the history of the name ‘Vietnam,’ the world ‘Viet’ is a Vietnamese version of the word that Chinese used for describing the people who resided in the southeast of Yunnan Province.
Looking at this information, we can infer that Vietnamese people didn’t have a custom of using last names before the Chinese domination. Not using the last name is not unusual because if we look at the history, before the 18th century, there wasn’t any trend of using last names in most of the world. This is known as “patronymic,” means the meaning of any person’s full name would be translated as “Steve, son of John.” The patronymic names in general, only point out to the next generation and they’re common in most of the world especially in the areas like Scandinavia and the Middle East. Examples of patronymic names are Ibn-e- Battuta, Johansson, Wilson, Fernández, etc.
The concept and the ideology of using last names were not known to most of the world unless your area was conquered. The major conquerors include the Normans, the Chinese, Romans, the Spanish, the Germans, the Portuguese and the Americans. Chinese are known to be the one to give last names to Vietnamese according to the families. Because the Chinese are known to have been using last names for the most time now.
Chinese have been using family names (last names) for thousands of years now, and they indicated information about occupation, social status or sometimes membership of a minority group. Before China took over Vietnam, the system of family names in China was much sophisticated, and they were given just for the taxes. Under the Chinese rulership, the family names were designated to maintain the tax records. Although they had a limited number of family names, they were for the people under their jurisdiction.
All of these places were conquered and occupied by the Chinese, and they were looking for ways and means to impose taxes on those who weren’t one of them, so they had to introduce a system of last names or family names to keep the record of taxes. The problem that leads to this was that these people didn’t have any family names. So how can you make sure that you’re imposing the tax on the right person when most of the people have the same last names?
So for that purpose, the Chinese started to hand out last names to the people, and they assigned the last names randomly. They gave whatever random name came to their mind to the people. The original list of last names was from Chinese or some were also the derived versions of Vietnamese names. Take Nguyen for example, and it’s a derived form of Chinese name Ruan. People also think that Chinese named the people with their names to the people who came under their supervision. The same trait can be seen in the Philippines, U.S., and India that the ruler bestowed their name to his people.
“Vietnamese have no pronouns, for example, he or she or you or they,” as stated by O’Harrow. In fact, the common style to refer to somebody else is with something O’Harrow. According to the common trait, we call someone by the name given to them on birth, and then we combine some family name or last name that depicts the relation between the speaker and listener. Let’s say, for instance, you’re talking to our good friend Dũng, and he has the same age as you, you will most likely call him Anh Dũng, which means “Brother Dung.” To differentiate age or gender difference or to show some respect, you’ll most likely add substitute word like “aunt,” “grandmother,” along with the name
The pronunciation of Nguyen is also a big issue as there are many ways to pronounce the name and the according to the spelling the pronunciation is entirely different. If you look online, you’ll find many ways to pronounce the name ‘Nguyen’ as different people have different ways of uttering it and we can’t say that they all are wrong. Southern Vietnamese pronounce at as “Win” or “Sen” as they clip out some of the sounds. Northern Vietnamese pronounce it like “N’Win” or sometimes “Nuh’Win.”
The prominence of this was because of many events in the history of Vietnamese. Back in 1232, when the Ly Dynasty was in power, the descendants of the Ly Dynasty were forced by Tran Thu Do to change their surname to Nguyen. Many descendants were killed when the Ho Que Ly took over the Tran Dynasty and when the Ho Dynasty collapsed, back in 1407, the fear of retaliation became a reason for people to change their surname to Nguyen. When The Nguyen dynasty became strong and got the power back in 1802, the descendants, due to the fear of retaliation, changed their surnames to Nguyen while many of them moved to the northern region of China. So as mentioned before the rulers bestowed their names to the descendants, same happened here. The rulers gave the surname to many of the people, and some criminals changed their last name to Nguyen because this way they could avoid the punishment. People with the same surnames are usually related to each other, but this is not the case here. It’s not necessary that the people with Nguyen as their surname must be associated with each other.
Smith is another common surname in the United States, and the reason why it’s so familiar is not like the Nguyen. Smith is a frequent surname because, by the year 1982, Smith was the 24th most popular name for boys. Another reason behind this is that Smith is an occupational name for people who used work with metals and as metal jobs were trendy in the past. So as the occupation was so familiar, the name spread and became famous.
Other commonly used last names in Vietnam along with the percentage population having a particular name as their last name are as follows:
Common Vietnamese Names
If we look back in the history and track down the fact that why some surnames are familiar, we find out three reasons for common surnames in people. Firstly because of the frequent occurrence of occupational surnames, i.e., people having the same profession were most likely to have the same name. Some surnames were forced onto people through the imperialism. The perfect example of that is the last name, Nguyen, as the leaders in Vietnam used to give their surname to their descendants.