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

Really? I mean, it’s ingrained in me to spell well-known names such as “Sandy” and “Alice” conventionally, but I manage to make exceptions in cases where I know the person (even if it’s “just one person”) prefers a bizarre or unique spelling such as “Sandee” or “Alyce”.

I certainly wouldn’t let my preference for conventional nomenclature override the other person’s preference about the form of their own name. Even if I do happen to think that spellings like “Sandee” or “Alyce” or “Kaytlyn”, etc., are silly, precious and annoying. My opinion of their motivation in writing their names unconventionally has no place in determining how I write their names to communicate with or about them.

Mind you, I completely agree that people using any kind of unconventional form for their names, whether it involves spelling, capitalization, punctuation or all of the above, should be tolerant of other people’s confusion and mistakes about it. Anybody who expects you to know their name is written in an unusual way without being told is indeed being a self-important asshole.

But if somebody informs me politely that they write (or for that matter, pronounce) their name in an unusual way, however weird it is, I think the polite thing to do is to reproduce that version as accurately as I can, without letting my personal “issues” about other people’s idiotic idiosyncrasies get in the way.

Of course, none of these individual responses from anybody really counts as a GQ-type answer, but I’m not sure it was a GQ-type question.

Capitalization is different from spelling. It’s more like grammar. It’s like someone telling you “When you use my name as the subject of a sentence, you must use it with a plural verb form only” or even “You can’t say SanDeE is going to the store*. The correct form is SanDeE IZZ going to the store*.” There’s a limit beyond which imposing your personal preference on others becomes controlling.

I’m a bit surprised this thread hasn’t been moved to IMHO sice ther is no factual answer to the OP’s question.

Is it possible the person in some sort of D/s relationship?


I recall the conversation when Prince changed his name to that unpronouncable symbol. Personally, I was pretty put off by this change, and couldn’t figure out whether he even had a right to do such a wacky thing. Then I saw an article where someone had written that there is no human right more basic than the right to decide how other people will refer to you. That logic was so appealing that it totally won me over.

It’s nice but everybody has weird names now, like Tiffany with p-h-i, and instead of Nancy it’s Nanceen.

My name is not O’Donnell, but it is similar. While I don’t mind being addressed as ODonnell (and sometimes prefer it for computer related reasons), I do have a strong preference for O’Donnel or ODonnel over Odonnel or O’donnel. It’s hard to say why, but the latter two don’t register to my mind as me. The O is not as important as the next letter. I don’t make a stink about it, but I would appreciate being referred to by my name. I therefore have a tough time arguing against names like SanDeE. I would do my best to write mary sullivan each time I referred to this lady because I benefit from other people’s forbearance in this.

You’re preference for “O’Donnell” isn’t some idiosyncrasy or novelty. It’s part of the standard toolbox of capitalization patterns in our language (another, less common standard is Ó Donnell). There are some aspects of language – including aspects of personal names – that are set by users of the language by tradition and consensus, not by individual preferences imposed on everyone else.

I also know an academic who insists on lowercase letters for his name. In his case, he says it’s because his name is so common, this sets him apart. The problem is journals don’t follow his request (and he does push the issue). Even if they did, the literature databases wouldn’t distinguish between upper and lower case. So, ultimately his point is moot and he’s just being difficult. Unfortunately, that’s the reputation that precedes him, not his actual work. And, no, he isn’t an artist. He’s a scientist.

But that, presumably, would be their actual, legal names. In that case I might think Kaytlyn’s parents were stupid to give her a silly name but it is in fact her name and I’d spell it that way. Now if her name was Alice but she wanted people to spell it Alyce, I guess I’d consider it like a nickname and go with it (while rolling my eyes).

That’s not the same as demanding that I ignore conventions of grammar and capitalization just because likes her name to be written as “kAt*lYn.”

Don’t get me started on Ke$ha.

In other words, you’d spell it her preferred way whether it was her “actual, legal name” or not.

So would I. And I would do the same for unconventional punctuation or capitalization as well as unconventional spelling.

I quite agree that the rest of us are entitled to a bit of private eye-rolling when weird people want us to write their names weirdly, but I think it would be rude to point that out to them. And I think it would be even ruder to explicitly refuse to honor their preference in writing their names.

However, as John Mace noted, this can’t be settled with a factual answer. The closest we could get would be finding some generally recognized etiquette authority or style guide that issues a pronouncement on the idiosyncratic use of all-lowercase personal names, and I haven’t been able to come up with one. (Furthermore, even a generally recognized etiquette authority or style guide isn’t universally accepted as the final arbiter in such cases.)

I just don’t agree. I think it’s rude of them to expect it.

What’s the limit?

“Whenever you type my name, you must stand and salute, hop three times, and shout Thank God for SanDeE*, because that is actually my correct name as I have chosen it.”

My name can only be written in green-colored type.

This discussion reminds me of a long-ago OP who insisted that his draft card was not really his draft card because it spelled his name in all caps, which is not how he wrote his name.

It has now. :slight_smile:

Agreed. It’s all about how far they push it. For me, I can live with a cutesy spelling if that’s what they’ve decided their name is because I can chalk it up “everyone gets to declare their own nickname.” But I draw the line at someone declaring their own punctuation and capitalization.

Regarding Prince, there’s a reason why everyone referred to him as “the artist formerly known as Prince.” There are physiological and technical realities that make it impractical for someone to insist on a name that is both unpronounceable and cannot be written using the standard character set. To some extent, a personal name has a practical aspect. It’s so people, when speaking or writing, can refer to a third person in a convenient way. When you adopt a name that interferes too much with that practical aspect of a name, you’re fucking around with people.

Is it a problem that we transliterate Arabic, Greek, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Indian names when we’re writing in English? How is that any different?

There is a difference between not capitalizing someone’s name as an affectation, and respecting the actual spelling.

I have a friend whose last name is van der Wal. It’s Dutch, and in the Netherlands they’d only capitalize the W. His parents and siblings, all American born, use Van der Wal, a convention which few others follow. He gets mail addressed to Vander Wal, Vanderwal, and other variations.

My last name is similar to (but not) this: MacBain…I don’t think it’s an affectation for me to want it spelled correctly, instead of Macbain. But the difference is, that’s how I was christened; and I really do prefer that people write it MacBain instead of Macbain because the former is correct, damn it.

How about names with apostrophes inserted, such as Tane’sha or Q’sha, or names like La-Von and such? I personally find them as pretentious as a lower-case name, but I’ll spell it any way the individual prefers.

What will john smith do when it becomes a trend in academia for every self-important academe to do that? Also why doesn’t he just change his name to Orchidia Moonbeam or something if the goal is to stand out?

Here’s the thing, identity isn’t a single objective thing, there is both how one identifies oneself and how each other person that he associates with identifies him. In many cases, it makes sense for one to adjust his view of another person’s identity because it has changed, but sometimes one may make an effort to change one’s identity but it just doesn’t affect how others see him. To this end, someone who has gone by one name his whole life and suddenly decides they want to go by a different name, they’ll have trouble getting it to stick and expecting everyone else to suddenly make a shift in how they identify him just because he changed how he identifies himself is just obnoxious.

Another aspect of identity that is particularly important is relativity, whether it’s to some sort of standard, some group, or whatever. We see issues with this all the time, particularly with race, sexual preference, and gender, but this carries over in other more subtle ways. In many cases these sorts of standards exist because they’re useful and capitalization of proper names is no exception because they’re words that should stand out. It’s fine to go against convention if there’s a good reason, like with some of the aforementioned ones, but going against it without good reason is just as bad and sometimes worse than following them for no reason.

To me, it seems that someone who insists that his name be written in lowercase is doing it to make it stand out. First of all, it only stands out when in a list of names, pretty much in any other way it will either have no affect or possibly make it blend in worse. Second, even if it does help it stand out in written form, it does nothing to help the name stand out when spoken. Third, if one is upset that one’s name is too common, there’s better ways to address it. For instance, one could go by one’s middle name, a nickname, a shortened or lengthened version, or include other initials, maiden names, or titles/degrees/certs as part of the written name. One could try alternate spellings or simply choose another name or have a pen name if it’s for a book, article, or other such publication.

So, to that end, if your name is Steve Smith, I don’t care if you want it written as steve smith, I’ll type it properly because it’s useful whereas your identity crisis with a common and boring name isn’t useful. If you want to stand out, be Steve L. Smith or S. L. Smith or S. Larry Smith or Steven/Stephen/Steeve Smith, or Steve Smith, PhD or some combination or something entirely different. When you start self-identifying with a different name entirely, it’s useful to accomodate. But, your desire to stand out isn’t my responsibility to accomodate, especially when it’s in a way that just makes my life more difficult but doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

So, IMO, the OP should more or less ignore what the coworker requests if it’s more useful or consistent to capitalize normally.

If somebody asked me to spell their name lowercase, I’d ask why. If they gave me an interesting or substantial answer, I’d respect it. If they didn’t, it really depends on how much help I want from said person.

That said, I have trouble imagining what an interesting or substantial answer could be. Maybe, “there was a serial killer with the same name as me; I dropped the capitals as a way of expressing my shame over sharing his name.”

“I’m a snowflake!” wouldn’t cut it.