Names and Names and Names and Names

Much has been written about the Power of Names. The power to name, to know someone/thing’s name, the right to change your own. I will not be mentioning roses vis-a-vis sweet-smells.

Is there anything new to say about the weight and import given to names? Probs not. But when has that ever stopped me?

I was cataloging This Bridge Called My Back (3rd edition) and noticed a few names which were written lower-case. While trying to give access to the contributors in 700s (my own little radical cataloging act is to give a bit more name access than I ordinarily would to under-represented folks in our catalog) I had to run everybody through the NAF. It was interesting to see whose names were rendered according to the desire of the authors, and whose names were rendered otherwise. It got me thinking about names styled in all lowercase, or other unconventional orthographies.

My gut of course, tells me to call people as they want to be called — which extends to the written word. For many though, this is simply a BRIDGE TOO FAR. There is an anger I saw while googling around for this topic, a peevishness that someone would be demanding that you violate these SACRED RULES of capitalization handed on high from CAPITALIZATION GODS for their special sneauxflake-selves. Is there anything more fundamental to cataloging than names? Name of this object, created by this name-d individual, is about these names, is in the form of those names, and has contributions from these other names.

I highly encourage you to check out the Wikipedia page for danah boyd, specifically the talk pages. Since April, 2006, and as recently as February, 2015 — the editors have argued, passionately that her name must be spelled according to ‘proper’ rules. There is vitriol spilling across three (!) archives of discussion that she has no right to decide on her own name’s appearance.

More annoyed people can be seen in this metafilter thread

bell hooks has an entire section of her talk page set aside for name-pedants (not that it doesn’t appear throughout the other archives of her page)

This Language Log post takes great umbrage with the idea that people can choose their own name’s orthography.


So here’s a partial but by no means complete list of people that LC’s authorities have in uppercase despite their choosing to style it lowercase.

doris davenport

brian d foy

debbie tucker green

While dream hampton, and mary hope whitehead lee do not currently have authority records, keep an eye out folks, for if they get one, let’s get it right!

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