Burmese names are often very confusing to foreign visitors because we do not necessarily hand down family surnames from generation to generation and Burmese wives seldom use the names of their husbands. Thus U Sein Tun’s son might be Maung Saw Tin, and his wife might be called Daw Mya Aye.
The titles prefixed to a name are also a bit difficult at first. A boy will be called “Maung” (“young brother”) till he is about twenty, and a girl “Ma.” But Maung and Ma are also common personal names, as with the well-known writers Dr. Mauing Mauing and Ma Ma Lay. An older man will address a much younger one as “Maung,” while a landowner or a businessman would address a tenant farmer or laborer as “Maung.” A little further up the age and status scale comes “Ko” (“elder brother”), and, finally, “U,” the form for a man who has made his mark in life. Yet, no matter how successful, he would always be too modest to sign himself as “U,” and if his personal name is a single word he will prefix it with “Mauing.” For a married or an older woman the title is “Daw,” but in conversation this is often dropped and affection or respect is indicated by doubling one of the syllables of her name. Then there is “Bo” for an army officer or someone who distinguished himself in our struggle for independence.
One or more of a Burmese child’s names is almost certain to show the day on which he was born—a survival from our belief that human destiny is linked with the stars. Certain letters of the alphabet are ascribed to each day, so that a “Thursday’s child” would have one name beginning with our P, B, or M.