I’m mildly amused but mostly slightly irritated by those seeking to attack the decision by Waterstones not to use the apostrophe in their name any more. I’m annoyed mostly because of their reasoning – it’s really not that inconvenient, right?
My surname is O’Connell. In general, I don’t use the apostrophe when I enter my name on computer systems. It does not appear on my bank cards for example, because I asked them to take it off when I changed my name. It’s not on my blood donor card, because I did not put it on the forms when I signed up.
But some people will “helpfully” reinsert it if I leave it off. This leads to problems. Not just the Little Bobby Tables problem, but that’s bad enough when systems won’t let you enter it but still require an exact match on your name. More than once I’ve started at a company to find my email is “Zoe.O’Connell@company.com” which isn’t a valid address.
And you can forget personalised domains, because someone is bound to try zoeo’connell.com which also won’t work.
Fix the computers? I wish it was that easy but humans can’t handle it either. I’ve been stuck at the front gates of data centres or on the phone to some call centre more than once because they are typing “O-Connell”, “O,Connell” or even just Connell on the computer to search for me.
I’ve ranted about this before, back in 2009:
I’ve decided that I’m going to change my name to à¤¸à¤‚à¤¸à¥ƒà¤¤à¤¿ à¤•à¥à¤®à¤¾à¤°à¥€. This is, as far as I can figure out, the closest you can get to “Life Maiden” (Zoe Imogen) in à¤¸à¤®à¥à¤à¤¾à¤·à¤¨à¤¸à¤‚à¤¸à¥à¤•à¥ƒà¤¤ (Sanskrit). I shall write to everyone – banks etc. – and inform them of my name change. Of course, they’ll all write back and tell me that they’re very sorry, but their computer systems can’t handle à¤¸à¤®à¥à¤à¤¾à¤·à¤¨à¤¸à¤‚à¤¸à¥à¤•à¥ƒà¤¤ letters.
To which there’s a simple reply – You can’t handle the stupid apostrophie in my surname as it is without breaking things, why would having it in Sanskrit make any difference?
So, until someone can fix the whole Internet and teach all humans everywhere to enter data properly, I’ll stick without it.
(As an aside, there is likely not even supposed to be an apostrophe in the name anyway. I’ve seen various explanations but it’s most likely simply an anglicisation that happened during the first censuses of Ireland to mean “of the Connell clan”, “son/daughter of Conall” etc.)