When people insist on using lower-case letters for their names. . .

A colleague of mine in academics spells, and asks all others to spell, her first and last names using lower-case letters. An example is bell hooks, or mary sullivan. As a traditionally schooled academic myself, I face great dissonance when typing her name. My tendency is to “properly” capitalize her name, but of course that is probably seen as oppositional.

My question: When one chooses to disregard convention such as in this case, must others oblige by also disregarding convention?

In the meantime I will continue to type her name out with first and last names capitalized. “Mary Sullivan, you are no bell hooks!” :rolleyes:

I say just use the proper capitalization and let the self-important person be peeved about it. A person can’t just declare that her name is not subject to conventional rules. If someone asked that I always dot the I in their name with a smiley face or a heart, I wouldn’t comply with that either.

The lowercase name thing is so precious and pretentious. I’d be happy to annoy the person by writing it properly.

I’d use all caps for their names, just to rub it in.

I don’t think it hurts or inconveniences me to refer to people–in spoken conversation and in writing–as they wish to be known. This goes for people who prefer a name other than their given name, who opt to use their middle name instead of their first, who have a strong aversion to a shortened/pet version of their given name and, IMHO, your coworker who prefers her name to be lowercase. It’s their identity, I don’t see where I should feel like I get a say?

And I totally enjoyed reading your response! I fought off the impulse to use the phrase “self-indulgent” when writing my post, and so laughed when you went ahead and acknowledged it. Thanks for the reality check. Others on campus are complying with ms. important’s request to treat her special, so it’s good to hear another voice.

There’s certainly precedent for it:


I really appreciate the links. I looked and found a few sites that sorta kinda addressed the issue, but these two are very helpful. I especially enjoyed the “stage name” k.d. lang and then referring to her otherwise as Lang.

Thank you, everyone. I am a brand new member in terms of posting, and appreciate your information and enthusiasm!

Capitalization is not an arbitrary rule, it is there to help understanding. The classic example: “I had to help my uncle Jack off his horse.”

Those who insist they are not subject to conventional capitalization rules are looking for an attention grabbing hook. Good for them. I’m happy they have a nice, safe outlet for their artistic spirit. They can color outside the lines and claim the lines are trying to control them too.

My artistic spirit tells me to write other people’s names however the hell I feel like, even capitalizing against their wishes. I’m just wild and crazy that way!

Normally, I make an effort to call people what they want to be called. If they introduce themselves as William, I don’t call them Bill. But all lowercase irritates me, sets my teeth on edge. It smacks of a pretentiousness that preferring William to Bill doesn’t. I would try to comply, would probably frequently mess up, and not apologize for it.

I could have said every word of this.

I get a say, because I get to decide what comes out of my own mouth and what is written by my own hand. Excessive preciousness of the “SanDeE*” is a type of passive-aggressive control-freak behaviour. SanDeE* can go and pout when I write “Sandee.”

Damn straight.

Remember Jerry terHorst, Ford’s press secretary? That name caused all kinds of problems. Also a lot of people with Italian names have different ways of spelling what was probably the same name back in the Old Country, e.g., DiFranco, di Franco, Difranco, etc.

I guess people can choose what their names are supposed to be, although I would agree that in this case it’s a little eccentric (but see “e.e. cummings”).

Not to hijack, but I’m curious as to why omitting capital letters would be considered pretentious or even passive-aggressive (!) in a first name or surname, but not in an alias or username.

shiftless, is your own username spelling meant as an “attention grabbing hook”? And Acsenray, IIRC you used to use a lowercase initial “a” for your name on these boards: were you being precious or passive-aggessive then?

I wonder if we’re perhaps reading too much psychological weight into other people’s orthographic experiments. In any case, I’d say it’s impolite to deliberately spell another person’s name differently from the way you know perfectly well they wish it to be spelled.

A lot of the time, when I write a quick, informal email, I’ll sign it like this:


(Not my real name). I capitalize my name pretty much every other time I write it, but I’ve been in the habit of doing the above for quite some time, I never really thought of it as pretentious or anything. Is this something that many would think is pretentious, or just the idea of asking others to ‘treat your name special’?

Yeah, see E. E. Cummings, who wrote his name with and without capitals and his signature included capitals. The all-lowercase version was preferred by publishers for design purposes.

It’s passive-aggressive and control-freakish when you insist that other people must adhere to your idiosyncrasy in their own writing.

Aliases follow the same rules as regular names. User names originate in a completely different tradition in which people generally treat the conventions of writing much more cavalierly. They are not given the same status as a person’s actual name. It took some time before a user sign in name started becoming an identifier, and it still has a large technical purpose that puts it in a different context than an actual personal name.

No, I was merely being careless, which is a common feature of online interaction. If I had thrown a fit whenever someone capitalized my user name in the traditional manner of an actual name, then I would have been precious and passive-aggressive.

I wonder if we’re perhaps reading too much psychological weight into other people’s orthographic experiments. In any case, I’d say it’s impolite to deliberately spell another person’s name differently from the way you know perfectly well they wish it to be spelled.

You doing it is nor pretentious. Require other to do so would be.

Personally, I wouldn’t do it. It is ingrained in me to capitalize the first letter of names. Asking me to do otherwise for just one person would cause real issue for me.

I forgot to hit the shift key when I typed my username the first time. I don’t remember insisting that everyone else must type my username the exact same way. If I did, it would be for the attention.

Plus, there’s no commonly accepted capitalization convention in usernames anyway. It’s a different context, with different expectations. Note all lowercase sparky!, who says:

FTR, I didn’t forget to hit the shift key.

Does the woman in the OP explain WHY she wants her name in lowercase?

I am divided because I support the eccentricities that seem to go along with the best artists, but this woman doesn’t sound like an artist but just someone who wants to do a petty power play. She isn’t changing her name, just forcing you to be extra special when referring to her highness it sounds like.

Ummm, it’s Dingbang, not Dingbat.


I agree with Vinyl Turnip: ALWAYS WRITE THE NAME IN ALL CAPS.


Even if you’re handwriting.