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What's in a NAME

If I spell my name idiosyncratically, say, ELINor nauEN or eLiNoR nAuEn, & maybe even legally change it to that, is every place that publishes me required to follow my whim? Even if a sentence begins with my name, would it have to start with a lower case letter because that's how I prefer it? Isn't there some egotism in refusing standard capitalization by spelling one's name with all lower letters? What stands out in a sentence such as this: "John Smith, Jane Thorogood Doe, and bob thomson met for dinner two nights ago."


There's the argument that I, the editor, should abide by the person's desires. "...[I]t's my name and i should be able to frame it as i see fit... Why must it follow some New York Times standard guide for naming?" says danah[sic] michele[sic] boyd[sic]. 


Someone named Idris Mercer is cranky as hell but like him, standard English is a pet peeve of mine. In a piece from 2005, he writes: 

If you ask to be called "Dawn" rather than "Kathryn," it's like you belong to a chess club where the various sets of chess pieces don't quite look identical, and you ask to use one particular set because you think its rooks have a nicer shape. But if you ask to be called "kathryn" rather than "Kathryn" -- and everyone else's name is capitalized -- then it's more like you belong to the chess club and you ask that your rooks be allowed to move in a different way from everyone else's rooks... One of the comments from "On the difficult matter of names" puts it quite well: "My personal feeling is that one should be permitted control over the spelling and pronunciation* of one's own name up to the point that the name does not start taking over its immediate environment."


Slate copyeditor Abby McIntyre writes: 

But in standard print, capitalizing these proper names is not an act of violence nor of authoritarianism nor of betrayal. It is simply an attempt at clarity. "Capitalization is part of the social convention for writing English," writes Bill Poser at the Language Log. When a reader opens up an article or a blog post here at Slate or elsewhere, she does so with the expectation that it will conform to these "social conventions" of written English—certain norms and syntactic cues that will help digest the information therein as easily as possible. Capitalization is one of those cues. When I capitalize Danah Boyd or Bell Hooks, it's not meant as an affront on those women but as an overture to the reader.


Our job as writers and editors is to make things as easy and clear for the reader. If the writer knows what they mean, but I get tangled up in it, I ask them to clarify. Of course I'm excepting style choices (dialect, for example) etc, but that has to be consistent. I object to finding a single ELINOR or paul bobbing in a sea of Johnnys, Maggies, and Georges.



* I acknowledge the political aspect of this topic...

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