The Times has a charming article about Mongolia’s reintroduction of second names, which were banned in the Soviet era because they reinforced tribal bonds.
The problem is that, in a still largely nomadic culture with relatively few written records, many people can’t remember what their family or tribal name was. Hence, they’re allowed to choose anything they like, leading to a wholly predictable glut of Genghis Khans. Others are helped by Serjee Besud, director of the Central State Library:
“I tell them to think of something they were born near,” he said, “the name of a river, valley or mountain. Or people might call themselves after their occupation. We have many Mr Writers and Mr Hunters, even a Mr Policeman.”
So, if you could choose your surname, what would it be? I’ve currently got a soft spot for the horse-gallop name of the Latvian left-back Blagonadezdin, one of the few names that sounds better the faster it’s said.