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Subject: Re: [docbook] On family/given/first/last names

Quoting Geraint North <geraint@transitive.com>:

> If publishers do have strict guidelines in this regard, it would be
> interesting to know _why_ they have these guidelines - I suspect that
> they are artefacts from a time when search would be performed on the
> printed document itself, which (as Markus showed in his example) has
> clear disadvantages.

I'm sure it is. The whole point of abbreviating first and/or middle  
names is to save ink and paper. I can't estimate whether you'll notice  
the saved bytes if you download a PDF version of a paper if your  
next-door-neighbor is just about to watch Hollywood's latest  
blockbuster via the net. I guess there is no measurable impact. So  
there is clearly no reason to abbreviate names in electronic  
publications beyond what the person herself would do, like many US  
folks who customarily abbreviate their middle name. However, a tie is  
essentially obsolete since the first t-shirt hit the market, but still  
there is no lack of colors, patterns, and shapes to choose from. The  
same holds true for citation and bibliography styles. Each journal has  
something like a corporate style to distinguish itself from the  
competition. Chances are that the journals don't want to give up their  
styles, however hard it is for the authors. The impact of the zoo of  
bibliography styles has previously been lamented in a letter to  
Nature[1] by Errol C. Friedberg (or should we say: Friedberg EC?) -  
without effect, as far as I can see.

> Obviously an impossible proposal, but if _I_ were King of the
> International Author Naming Committee, there seem to be only two things
> of interest:
> - How each author would like their name displayed
> - An unordered set of all the components of their name (including
> variants), for search purposes.

I see one problem here. It is not uncommon to see last names used as  
first names and vice versa. I recall a fellow student named "Ismeni  
Walter". Most of the time when attendance of some course was checked,  
the teacher would look for a guy named "Walter Ismeni" and was  
surprised to find a nice girl to answer (yes, her first name is Greek,  
the last name is German). This tends to make simple searches for  
unclassified name parts ambiguous.


[1] Nature Vol. 437 p. 1232, 2005.  

Markus Hoenicka
(Spam-protected email: replace the quadrupeds with "mhoenicka")

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