China’s “Middle Dot” Dilemma

Ethnic groups in China such as the Uygurs, Kazaks, Kyrgyzs, and Tibetans use a “middle dot” to separate their given names from their Mandarin surnames.

But middle dots are being used inconsistently, thanks largely to technology. This is causing a lot of headaches.

When issuing ID cards and opening accounts, China’s government and banks sometimes use the middle dot, sometimes omit it, and sometimes use other forms of punctuation. And different versions of the middle dot exist, depending on who’s doing the writing:

Nefesa Nihemet, a Uygur lawyer in Shanghai, said she daren’t link her graduate and postgraduate degrees with her ID, fearing they will be judged as “fake” as the dots are different.

Many people in regions inhabited by ethnic groups still hold old IDs that have the dots in the lower middle position, while newer IDs put the dot in the middle, she said.

Many e-commerce sites don’t allow users to input a middle dot, especially if users are shopping via smartphone. This makes it hard for China’s ethnic minorities to shop online.

A 29-year-old Uygur man named Murat Mamut was quoted as saying, “I feel as if I have wasted half of my life dealing with this dot.”

Efforts have been made to standardize the dot, but some would prefer to stop using it altogether. (Many Chinese airlines have dropped the dot, for instance.)

Sources: Millions of ethnic people bedeviled by a dot in names, Dotty dilemma for people with ethnic names

Other posts about punctuation in names: Fighting for Aboriginal Baby Names in N.W.T., California “Parental Naming Rights” Bill Stalls Out

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