A note on my name

My name officially is: Biró, Tamás Sándor. Yet, I never use my second given name Sándor, except when Dutch people ask for my "initials", which are thus T. S. Note that I am not identical to a known physicist with exactly the same name (despite further surprising similarities in our CV).

My given name is pronounced "Tamaash" in Hungarian, with the stress on the first syllable, but the second vowel being long. The quality of the first vowel is between [o] and [a]. Yet, I am used to all kinds of pronunciations (especially "Tamas" in a French context). My family name is simple to pronounce if your starting point is not English orthography: it is "Beeraw" (stress on the first syllable, as always in Hungarian, but that does not matter).

The orthography of my family name is Biró officially, as I have recently found out. Actually, this is also the way I used to spell it in my childhood. But later on, until 2007, I wrote Bíró (for LaTeX users: Tam\'as B\'\i{}r\'o). So this spelling is used in all my publications up to 2006 (including my doctoral dissertation), whereas I have used Biró since 2007.

The reason of this uncertainty is that the name means `judge' in Hungarian, which is spelled bíró. The word biró has no meaning. Yet, the orthography of family names sometimes diverge from standard Hungarian orthography. Beside extreme cases reflecting archaic, 16th-17th century orthography, many Hungarian family names contain mute h letters (német means 'German', but as a family name it is often spelled Németh), or end in a y to be read – exceptionally – [i]. Consequently, it is not surprising that a large proportion of people with the same family name as mine use a short i letter, instead of a long í in their name. Finally, it has been argued that it is exactly for this vowel that the qualitative difference between the short and the long phonemes is least salient, which also accounts for frequent spelling errors concerning this letter. (Note that most speakers of Hungarian do not realize the qualitative difference between short and long vowel pairs, with the exception of "a" and "á", as well as "e" and "é".)

Finally, some spelling variations for search engines: Tamás Biró, Tamás Bíró, Tamas Biro; as well as following the Hungarian order: Biró Tamás, Bíró Tamás, Biro Tamas.



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