Names are a mess.

Someone on IRC recently pointed me at a piece giving a long list of falsehoods programmers (apparently) tend to believe about names.

Chasing links from that, I found, among others, various pages om related subjects: one from someone with a very English name which nevertheless breaks surprisingly much software; another by someone who, like me, uses a single name, but, unlike me, actually went to the trouble to do a legal name change to it; and a third about representing names more generally. Consider the case mentioned by Knuth in The TeXBook of someone named, IIRC, Per Brinch Hansen, where the family name part is "Brinch Hansen". And I personally know someone with a French-derived family name which begins "de ", and a family of some half-dozen people with a Dutch name beginning "van ". These are not rare.

Back to the original list, though, it seems to me, in the spirit of numbers 11 and 40 from that list, I would be inclined to add some more. Specifically, I would add "People's names are writable" (violated by any pre-literate society) and "People's names are speakable" (violated by, say, deaf-mutes, who presumably have sign-language names but no written or spoken forms of them; I recall reading of an institution for deaf children which, in the presence of semi-benign neglect from the rest of its society, developed their own sign language).

Of course, it's less likely that software will have to deal with such people. Hardly impossible, though, especially if the program is, say, being used by an anthropologist to keep records when studying such peoples.

I've run into this myself, in small ways. One of my names, my preferred name, is simply `Mouse'. Not a first-and-last name. Two things I've had this turned into are "Mouse ." and "M o u s e", each of which is a mangling of the name (both relatively minor manglings, but still). And I have an email friend who writes that he cannot sign up for Facebook, I think it was, because he cannot follow their instructions for entering his name: the instructions require that the name consist of a first and last name, and also require that it be the name by which he's commonly known in the community. For him, there is no name that satisfies both those requirements. I would have similar issues if I had any desire to sign up for Facebook (which I don't, for plenty of reasons unrelated to their handling of names).