A name is what we call something

Recently, I worked with a client that was trying to find the “right” way to ask for a person’s name. It’s title, first, middle, last, suffix, right? Perhaps ‘maiden’ although that sounds rather medieval. AKA sounds like it should be on a wanted poster, a bit criminal. Formerly known as? “What other aliases do you go by, or have you used in the past?” Yikes. What it says on your driver’s license, good for checking at the polls, is probably different from how you prefer to be addressed by your friends. Names have code- and context-switching.

Years ago, I read an essay pointing out the idea that you could break down names into different atomic parts, and reassemble them again without a loss of information, as the nonsense it is. I couldn’t locate it at the time, but I’ll post it here for a good reminder:


The killer quote: “I have never seen a computer system which handles names properly and doubt one exists, anywhere.

Highly recommended.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.