Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style/Biographies/Archive 6

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Honorific prefixes No.2

This guideline is absurd and should be reversed. It is relevant almost only to people in UK who are not peers. Peers who are members of the Privy Council are described in the first line as Peter Rabbit, Lord Rabbit of Garden, PC, MBE. But before he was elevated to the peerage he was described as Rt Hon Peter Rabbit, MP, MBE. Rt Hon as a prefix is instead of the post-nominal PC which is only used by peers. Yet this guideline quite wrongly does not even allow him to be described as Peter Rabbit, PC, MP, MBE (which is worse than Rt Hon and not used but is better than omitting this important recognition by the society in which he lives). - Kittybrewster 22:47, 25 February 2007 (UTC)

  • Reverse it. - Kittybrewster 22:52, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse, as above. It is not correct form for post-nominal PC to be used for commoners. The way of expressing it should be via Rt. Hon. Peter Rabbit should, therefore, be known as the Rt. Hon. for clarity purposes.--Couter-revolutionary 23:08, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse so that such offices can be shown correctly. --Ibagli (Talk) 23:14, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse. I agree with Kittybrewster, Couter-revolutionary and Ibagli. Proteus (Talk) 23:17, 25 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse: all proper encyclopaedias use Correct Form. 09:17, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Keep. Where in the guideline does it say that PC cannot be used as a postnom? Nowhere that I can see. In addition, I have seen a lot of claims that PC is incorrect for commoners, but no proof. It is used in Who's Who and other publications. I have provided an example of where it has been used in an official government publication (on the order of service for Ernest Bevin's official memorial service, where he is described as "Ernest Bevin, PC"). So that's two unsubstantiated claims in one proposal! -- Necrothesp 10:04, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
Reply Quote from Debrett's Correct Form: "'The Rt Hon' is always placed before the name both in formal and social usage. There is no need to add the letters P.C. after the name, since 'The Rt. Hon.' is sufficient indication of membership of the Privy Council." I am therefore arguing for The Rt Hon and against PC. Quote from The Correct Guide to Letter Writing; Superscription of the envelope "The Rt Hon ------ ------, P.C." - Kittybrewster 10:15, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
All that says is that it is not necessary to add PC if Rt Hon is used. What it does not say is that PC is incorrect. We do not use honorofics on Wikipedia, plain and simple. What we would do when addressing a letter and what we do here are two different things. If it was so wrong to omit Rt Hon would the government really have done so on Ernest Bevin's memorial service programme? Somehow, I think not. -- Necrothesp 11:22, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
Why does Wiki. not use them? Is there any reason? I doubt Bevin cared very much, or that the government composed the memorial service programme for that matter!--Couter-revolutionary 11:30, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
"'The Rt Hon' is always placed before the name both in formal and social usage" - Kittybrewster 11:26, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
Sir Winston Churchill’s Memorial Programme (a state funeral) correctly describes him as The Rt Hon Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, KG, OM, CH so I think Necrothesp is arguing WP:IDONTLIKEIT - Kittybrewster 11:40, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
Please don't make assumptions as to what I like and do not like. I'm a firm supporter of the use of honorifics in most circumstances. But I do not believe they are necessary on Wikipedia (although I have argued for the use of titles on many occasions) and if we make an exception for Rt Hon then there will be calls for the addition of "Honorables" and other honorifics to every tom, dick and harry to whom they're granted in other countries (where "the honorable" is often used merely as an indicator that the individual has some vaguely official office). I find it interesting that you are happy to take Churchill's programme as proof of the validity of your own point of view and disregard Bevin's as proof of mine! Note that I have never said that use of "Rt Hon" is incorrect - it most certainly isn't - but only that the use of "PC" is also acceptable. And I believe that it is the better option here. -- Necrothesp 13:08, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
I think Kitty. was pointing out Churchill's was a state funeral, therefore definitely official.--Couter-revolutionary 13:24, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
As I said, I'm not arguing that Rt Hon is incorrect in any case. Of course it's correct. My argument is that the use of "PC" is also perfectly correct, that claims it isn't have not been substantiated in any way (and indeed, I have provided an example of its usage on a government document), and that it is preferable here for the reasons I have stated. -- Necrothesp 13:34, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse if Wikipedia is to have credibility. We should be insisting upon what is correct, not whatever we like or approve/disapprove of. David Lauder 10:23, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse so that non-noble Privy Councillors are "The Right Honourable". This is clearly an exceptional situation to the general situation of disliking honorific prefixes. Sam Blacketer 10:47, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Keep I do believe that having The Right Honourable before all members of the Privy Council is unnecessary and unsightly, and I don't think most encloypedias put it before people's names like that. Wikipedia is not Debretts, and I think that having a simple "PC" after the persons name is quite sufficient. Kittybrewster quotes that it is always used in "formal and social usage", maybe (although I could dispute the social) but Wikipedia is not formal or social, it is an encloyopedia. --Berks105 11:42, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Keep due to the arguments of Berks105 and Necrothesp ~~ Phoe talk 21:59, 26 February 2007 (UTC) ~~
  • Reverse - I agree with the remarks on this page which refer to Correct Form. It is not for hostile editors to deny, via Wiki, the proper forms of address. Chelsea Tory 08:19, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
    • Hostile to what? Nobody's denying anything. I suggest you read the comments above. -- Necrothesp 11:17, 27 February 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse, I guess, although I don't think it's a big deal. It seems weird that we indicate in the header when peers are members of the privy council, but not when commoners are, and it's more or less wrong (or, at least, really odd) to add "PC" as a postnominal for commoners. john k 21:40, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Keep, in agreement with the comments that both Necrothesp and Berks105 made. Also please note that a number of editors that have !voted to "Reverse it" have been invloved in canvassing and have acted in "lock step" on a number of AfD's and !votes, as outlined by an administrator comment here--Vintagekits 23:05, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse - I never understood how this came to be policy in the first place. --New Progressive 11:58, 11 March 2007 (UTC)

Canvassing of this discussion

Kittybrewster has posted notices on 13 user pages drawing attention to this debate. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] This is an unacceptable way of trying to influence the outcome. The users are Ibagli, Masalai, Gibnews, Weggie, Jcuk, JulesH, AnnabelBuxton, Just_H, Craigy144, Eamon76, Thesocialistesq, Pc1dmn, JRawle. They are not to blame, but actions of this kind are likely to upset fair means of working towards consensus. Canvassing done 21:10, 13 March 2007 – 22:18, 13 March 2007 (UTC) Tyrenius 00:41, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

  • Keep One reason we added this, IIRC, is that thousands of U.S. politicians would have "honorable" attached to their names. This rule is also needed to maintain uniform treatment for all honorific titles. -Will Beback · · 21:36, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
    • Comment Then some kind of distinction should be made. In the UK, Rt. Hon. (at least when used to refer to a Privy Counsellor) is used to distinguish a select class of politicians who are entitled to perform a number of functions, including sitting as the supreme court for a number of overseas British territories. The title is not merely an honorific, but representative of actual function. I would suggest that this may be a sensible line to draw across the use of such prefixes. JulesH 23:31, 13 March 2007 (UTC)
  • No, they don't sit as the supreme court for the overseas territories. That process is often referred to as "the Privy Council" but it is actually only the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that sits -- these people are judges and, I think, the same people in practice as the Law Lords. That excludes the vast majority of members of the Privy Council. Woblosch 22:55, 22 April 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse, in accordance with JulesH's comment and Correct Form. Laura1822 00:35, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse- per Kitty's arguments. Astrotrain 09:05, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Keep per Berks105 and Will Beback. A postnominal PC coveys all the necessary information in a more concise form, and avoids endless explanations over the precise distinction between the "Rt. Honourable" PC members and the "honorable" US Congressmen. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 10:06, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Reverse, in accordance with 'Correct Form' and usual practice. Bluewave 13:48, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Comment - It may be correct for 'Correct Form', but this is an encyclopedia, not a formal document or similar. And I disagree with ususal practice, The Right Honourable is not normally used, you never see it in newspapers, history books, etc etc when refering to a person. --Berks105 14:32, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Keep. We don't want to go back to having all honorific prefixes, so we shouldn't make an exception for this one. The reason peers use PC is because they are automatically entitled to Rt Hon simply for being a peer. As we don't include prefixes for peers, I don't actually see a reason for listing PC at all. We don't list all postnominals, and there's no reason for all honours and achievements to be described in first line. It can be mentioned in the body, in the image caption or in a later "Titles from birth" section. So to summarise: keep this guideline, and maybe consider stopping using "PC" for peers. JRawle (Talk) 14:47, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
    • I'm sorry, but what is this about? I got a message on my talk page. Just Heditor review 04:30, 15 March 2007 (UTC)


The section now reads:

  • Styles and honorifics which are derived from political activities, including but not limited to The Right Honourable for being a Member of the Privy Council, should not be included in the text inline but may be legitimately discussed in the article proper.

Is the intent to delete the entire section? Or is to make this change:

JulesH seems to be arguing for the latter but I'm not sure exactly what Kittybrewster is proposing.-Will Beback · · 10:17, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

  • Response. That would be a great improvement on the status quo. PC as a postnominal for a commoner is just plain wrong. - Kittybrewster 12:50, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
  • Response I don't think it is plain wrong. Kittybrewster and others must remember this is an encylopedia and not a peerage website, or a formal document. The Right Honourable is not normally used, it is only really used in the House of Commons, and on formal documents or invitations etc. It is not used in other encylopedias, or books etc. --Berks105 14:32, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
  • "The Right Honourable" is normally used when giving someone's formal name. If the Prime Minister gave a ministerial broadcast he would be introduced as "The Right Honourable Tony Blair, M.P.". In most biographical guides, it is used. No-one ever uses postnominal PC for non-noble Privy Councillors. I suspect the problem here largely derives from the fact that 'The Right Honourable' is a prefix and not a suffix, but in that, it is clearly an exception. Most honours are placed as abbreviated suffixes, but this one gives the holder an honorific prefix. We accept "Sir"/"Dame" and Peerage titles as prefixes inline. Sam Blacketer 14:39, 14 March 2007 (UTC)
It's more general than that, Question_Time_(TV_series) and many other shows certainly caption as you say and sometimes use the spoken form. Of course that's not decisive to the issue 15:31, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

Deleting this section would be a poor idea. Time and again, people have argued over honorific prefixes; time and again, they've been excluded because they're NOT encyclopedic. I'm tired of seeing this come up continually. The answer is no, people shouldn't have honorifics. They're POV, they're not encyclopedic, and they make biography intros less consistant. Titanium Dragon 19:26, 14 March 2007 (UTC)

  • Of course they are not POV. They are fact - like VC. The one is postnominal, the other is prenominal. As for being consistent and wrong, better to make an exception in this case.. - Kittybrewster 08:08, 15 March 2007 (UTC)
What is PoV is to say; "people shouldn't have honorifics" --Counter-revolutionary 10:44, 15 March 2007 (UTC)

I am bemused to see that this discussion is apparently based on the usage recommended in Debretts. More than 20 year ago, I had occasion to write to a few hundred MPs. Seeking advice on how to address them, a colleague checked Debrett's, so we sent off the letters addressed as recommended ... and I was later teased about it by parliamentary staff who found the styles comically antiquated. I have yet to find any MP who is the slightest bit concerned about not being addressed as "The Right Honourable", but plenty who are embarrassed to have that degree of formality in anything except highly formal situations (such as in the chamber of the Commons). Debrett's may well be accurately recording the formal conventions, but actual usage has moved on: or good or ill, Britain has become a much less formal country, where "correct" forms of address are rarely used.

I have just checked the Dictionary of National Biography. Here are a the opening words from a few articles on MPs:

  • Thatcher, Sir Denis, first baronet (1915–2003), businessman and ...
  • Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (1874–1965), prime minister ...
  • Attlee, Clement Richard, first Earl Attlee (1883–1967), prime minister,

... and I can't find any entry where DNB uses the honorific.

If such a reputable publication as the DNB doesn't use "Rt. Hon", why should wikipedia feel obliged to do so? And if Who's Who use the postnomial PC, I don't see how it makes wikipedia look silly to use it too. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 10:38, 17 March 2007 (UTC)

Denis Thatcher was neither an MP nor a Privy Councillor. - Kittybrewster (talk) 23:21, 31 March 2007 (UTC)
And Winston Churchill was knighted, and Attlee raised to the peerage- so the lack of Rt. Hon. is entirely understandable. Gabrielthursday 22:52, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Common name versus fullname for disambguation

  • Robert Smith (editor)
  • Robert Smith (baseball)
  • Robert Smith (musician)

Is it proper to make them into their full name to aid diambiguation, even though its not their most common name: Robert Smith (editor) --> Robert Edward Smith. --Richard Arthur Norton (1958- ) 16:18, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

I think it is more logical to use a full name if it is known (and if they had more than two names, of course), but only if it is necessary for disambiguation. At the very least, a redirect should be made from their full name. -- Necrothesp 17:50, 26 February 2007 (UTC)
I certainly agree that a redirect from the full name is needed, and I try to always provide it, regardless of whether the article title includes a disambiguator. However, I think that the current formula of "name best known as"+(disambiguator if needed) is better than the full name, because it sticks most closely to the convention of "name best known as". If, for example, there were several other equally notable people called Tony Benn and we therefore needed to disambiguate them all, then "Tony Benn (politician)" is much more intuitive than "Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn" or "Tony Neil Benn" or "Tony Neil Wedgwood Benn". --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 10:45, 17 March 2007 (UTC)
  • comment I have no idea what this is about really, having just recieved a link (without so much as a message) to it on my talk page. However, looking briefly at the arguments presented, I think we should most definately use Right Hon. for UK M.P.s, as it is the correct (if no longer the usual) term. Just because other encyclopædias no longer do so, I see no reason for Wikipedia to lower its standards. Jcuk 13:22, 18 March 2007 (UTC)

Honorific prefixes

(Note that honorary knights and dames are not entitled to "Sir" or "Dame", only the post-nominal letters.) Example: "Dame Ellen Patricia MacArthur, DBE (born July 8, 1976) is an English sailor..." Is this just my being dim, or should that "Dame" in front of "Ellen Patricia MacArthur" disappear? Paul venter 22:30, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

Why should it disappear? Dame Ellen isn't a honorary dame. --Berks105 09:45, 1 April 2007 (UTC)

4. The honorifics Sir and Dame should be included in the text inline for baronets, knights bachelor, and members of knightly orders whose rank grants them that dignity, provided that they do not hold a higher dignity, such as a peerage, which trumps that usage. No baronet should be shown with the postfix but without the prefix, e.g. John Smith, 17th Baronet is wrong, the correct style being Sir John Smith, 17th Baronet. (Note that honorary knights and dames are not entitled to "Sir" or "Dame", only the post-nominal letters.) Example: "Dame Ellen Patricia MacArthur, DBE (born 8 July 1976) is an English sailor..."
Then why use her as an example immediately after a statement about honorary knights and dames???? Paul venter 11:23, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

The statement about honorary knights and dames is in brackets, whereas the example is not. Therefore the example clearly does not refer to the note in brackets (otherwise it too would be inside the brackets), but to the previous text not in brackets. The usage is perfectly correct. -- Necrothesp 01:59, 22 April 2007 (UTC)
Wouldn't the example be much better coming immediately after the text to which it refers, and the note about honorary dames and knight go last? -- JackofOz 00:26, 13 May 2007 (UTC)
The example shown here is still wrong as it refers to the same honour twice. If you use "Dame" you cannot also postfix the letters (DBE) that give her the honour of being called Dame. —Preceding unsigned comment added by TinyMark (talkcontribs) 18:14, 10 November 2007 (UTC)
That is, I'm afraid, rubbish. It technically goes for Rt Hon and PC and for Dr and PhD, but it doesn't apply to knighthoods and damehoods, where it is correct form to use both the pretitle (which should never be omitted) and the postnom to indicate which order the knight or dame belongs to (except for Knights Bachelor, who don't belong to any order and thus have no postnoms). -- Necrothesp (talk) 10:27, 25 January 2008 (UTC)

Uppercase "The" in TV show titles.

I have a question about the use of the uppercase 'The' when writing about the titles of TV shows, musical groups, or organisations. If these pages/links use the the uppercase article, are they right or wrong? I thank you. andreasegde 18:22, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

On TV: The Office The Apprentice, The Wire

Bands: The Who, The Band, The Libertines, The The, The Cure, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, The Dandy Warhols, The Jam, The Knack, The La's, The Undertones,

Newspapers: The Independent, The Observer, The Lancet, The Sun, The Scotsman, The Stage, The Spectator, The Sunday Times (UK), The Wire magazine

External links: The Pension Service, The Highway Code, The Photographers' Gallery, The Womens Library, The Fat Duck, The Children's Society andreasegde 18:22, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

As far as newspapers are concerned, doesn't it depend on what the newspaper calls itself? For instance "The Times" and "The Guardian" include the "the" on their masthead, so it is part of their actual name, whereas the "Evening Standard" and the "Daily Mirror" don't, so I should have thought a capital T would be inappropriate in those cases. Woblosch 23:07, 22 April 2007 (UTC)
This issue has been discussed at length in regards to the Beatles article/wikiproject. Based on input from professional print editors from the U.S. and U.K., the policy has been set to use the (lowercase) within the article text, except of course at the beginning of sentences. That's the way it's done in the vast majority of professional publications. (It seems to me any wikilinks should not include the the in such cases, but that's debatable.). I think Wikipedia needs an official policy on the issue. --emw 06:03, 29 April 2007 (UTC)

Revoked/rescinded Knighthoods

There’s a discussion going on over at Talk:Roger Casement as to whether or not it’s appropriate to refer to him in the lead para as "Sir Roger Casement CMG", or just "Roger Casement". The discussion centres on the facts that he was knighted in 1911, but his knighthood and CMG were revoked in 1916 after being convicted of treason.

Some participants refer to a naming convention whereby the person’s highest bestowed title and postnominals should be used. Others are arguing that, if a title/postnominal that normally remains for life has been revoked, it becomes inappropriate to use them in the person’s full name and titles in the lead para; the text of the article will reveal both the knighthood/CMG and their revocation.

I declare my hand: I’m in the latter group.

Revocations of knightood are very rare, and are only done in the most extreme circumstances. The only ones I’m aware of apart from Casement are Anthony Blunt, Albert Henry and Terry Lewis (police commissioner). For this reason, and given that this issue seems never to have been discussed here before, it’s likely that no thought has ever been given to a guideline/policy about such cases.

The "Honorary prefixes" section (point 4) addresses the case where a knight later becomes a peer. It doesn’t address the case where the knighthood is revoked. One suggestion (admittedly favouring the position I support) would be to add the words highlighted below:

  • The honorifics Sir and Dame should be included in the text inline for baronets, knights bachelor, and members of knightly orders whose rank grants them that dignity, provided that:
  • they do not hold a higher dignity, such as a peerage, which trumps that usage, or
  • the knighthood was not revoked/rescinded.

I’d appreciate some discussion of this, and some direction, so that we can have a consistent approach to these very unusual subjects and not have to recreate the wheel more often than is necessary.

There doesn't seem to be an article or category that lists all such cases. This should also be corrected. JackofOz 04:34, 2 May 2007 (UTC)

According to this, there have only been 14 people since the 14th century to be stripped of a knightood. So, it's a small list, but sufficient to have a policy on how to refer to such people. JackofOz 05:19, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

Ethnicity in opening - Asimov example contradicts guidelines?

The guidelines on the opening paragraph say, "Ethnicity should generally not be emphasized in the opening unless it is relevant to the subject's notability." But later in the article it gives the opening sentence on Isaac Asimov, saying in part, "was a Russian-born American Jewish author and biochemist". Doesn't the example contradict the guidelines, because Asimov's notability is irrelevant to the fact that he was Jewish? (Declaration of potential conflict of interest: this arose because the example is being used in a discussion at Talk:Samuel Reshevsky). Peter Ballard 02:02, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

p.s. Editors at Isaac Asimov seem to concur with me, because "Jewish" was removed from the article's lead sentence ago, except that it was re-inserted today as a side effect of the discussion at Talk:Samuel Reshevsky. Peter Ballard 04:04, 7 May 2007 (UTC)

Honorific Prefixes (again...)

A few months ago, a TfD for Template:Infobox hrhstyles was withdrawn because it should have been discussed here first, apparently. So my question here is; why do we have this and other similar infoboxes, which are rather clear violations of WP:NOT a how-to guide (as they only say how you should, according to protocol, address these people). The titles used to address e.g. a member of a royal family contain no information whatsoever relevant to that individual, so I don't see why we should have these infoboxes (as an example, what would be lost except a how-to if we removed the infobox from Prince Laurent of Belgium?). Anyone has a convincing argument to keep these boxes? Fram 07:46, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

As I see it, this homonymic use of the phrase "how to", meaning "correct form of address", has nothing to do with the use of "how to" in WP:NOT (i.e. method or procedure for doing something). There are similar uses of the phrase "how to" in "how to pronounce", meaning "correct pronunciation, not "procedure for achieving a particular pronunciation". These are completely different meanings of the phrase "how to", having nothing in common with the "instruction manual" use, as in "How to drive a car", "How to build a bridge" etc. In my opinion, this is clear from the wording of WP:NOT, but perhaps the phrase "how-to" should be removed there. --Boson 18:28, 11 May 2007 (UTC)
I don't see the distinction you make. We have an article about a car, but we don't explain how you should start it, change its cooling fluid, ... We have an article about a king, but we don't explain how you shuold address him. The words used to address a king (at least if you want to follow protocol, nothing says you can't just say "mister") are of no value in an article about that king, and gives us no information regarding that king whatsoever. It would be different if a king insisted on being called "God above all Gods" or somesuch, as that could be a good indication, an example, of his delusions of grandeur. But in that case, the information gives us more knowledge about what kind of person that king is / was. I fail to see how the general hrhstyle infobox gives us any more info or knowledge about the royal in question though. Fram 19:32, 12 May 2007 (UTC)
When you talk about WP:NOT and "how to", I assume you are referring to the section about instruction manuals:

Instruction manuals. While Wikipedia has descriptions of people, places, and things, Wikipedia articles should not include instructions, advice (legal, medical, or otherwise) or suggestions, or contain "how-to"s. This includes tutorials, walk-throughs, instruction manuals, video game guides, and recipes.

I interpret this to include advice and recommendations about how to produce something, acquire a skill, or achieve a result, especially by step-by-step instructions, as in the examples given at WP:NOT. I would not interpret details of forms of address as covered by this -- not any more than information about aliases, noms de plumes, etc. Just because you can use the phrase "how to" to describe something does not put it into the same category as a recipe or tutorial (where "how to" has a completely different meaning, i.e a series of instructions or recommendations aimed at achieving a purpose). Similarly, one could claim that including "Botanical name: Digitalis purpurea" in an infobox tells us how to refer to the common foxglove when observing scientific conventions, but that does not make it a "how-to" within the meaning of WP:NOT.--Boson 21:47, 12 May 2007 (UTC)
A pseudonym, alternative (sientific) name, ... all are other, distinct names by which the subject is defined. "His royal highness" tells us absolutely nothing about any specific king, prince, ... but tells you how to address kings in general. What is the point of such a general infobox in a specific article? The pseudonyms used by a writer give us more information about that individual writer and thus belong in that article. The different ways to address a royal give us no information about that specific person and thus do not belong in that article. Fram 18:43, 13 May 2007 (UTC)
It helps to create an understanding of that individual's life, and their interactions with others. Tyrenius 04:56, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Subsequent use of names

Currently, it says to use the surname when talking about the subject later in the article. But, it does not list any exceptions for stage names (especially, singular names). Judging by Madonna (entertainer), Prince (musician), and Seal (musician), it looks like concensus is already to use the stage name. But, it would probably be good to put it into the MoS; unless there is still some debate to be had about it. I think that enforcing the surname rule would be more professional and fitting of an encyclopedia, but, I don't think we could pull it off here. Opinions? Neier 14:26, 17 May 2007 (UTC)

Agreed. It would read in a very stilted way to use the surname for these people. Tyrenius 04:51, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
We should be using the surname-equivalent for people who go by a stage name. So, "Jolson" for Asa Yoelson and "Madonna" for Madonna Louise Ciccone Ritchie (since she goes by a single name), but "Presley" for Elvis Aaron Presley (since he did not go by a single-name stage name, he's just well-known).--Pharos 04:59, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
OK, I've added a few words to this effect in the 'Subsequent uses of names' section.--Pharos 05:20, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
My question isn't restricted to biographies, but I'm unsure where else to raise it (please inform me if there's a more suitable forum). In the currently topical article 2007 Greek forest fires, I deleted a repetition of the entire phrase Minister for Public Order, Vyron Polydoras in one section. In the subsequent discussion it was clear that the original author thought of Mr Polydoras' function in the same way that we would think of the title "Dr". Similarly, Costas Karamanlis is never mentioned in this article without the epithet "Prime Minister". Are there any clear WP guidelines on this matter? --NigelG (or Ndsg) | Talk 11:12, 30 August 2007 (UTC)


Just because the article doesn't explicitly state this; If say an author goes by a pseudonym that is more well known than their actual name then the article's name should be the pseudonym? I ask this because somebody keeps going around to some of these pages about authors and changing them from their well know (and published) pseudonyms (eg. Nora Roberts) to their less known 'real' names (eg. Eleanor Marie Robertson) which is even debatable because she's been married a few times so in reality it would be Eleanor Marie Robertson Smith Wilder, which the person has already created a redirect from. I personally believe that the article, and probably most of the others that the person has moved needs to be back at the more popular pseudonym but I want to me sure that I'm reading this right before doing anything. Thanks --ImmortalGoddezz 13:04, 31 May 2007 (UTC)

That editor needs to read and understand Wikipedia:Naming conventions (common names), and to take note of the example about Pelé. I am no expert on Nora Roberts or her work, or her various legal names or pseudonyms, but just looking at the number of links to Nora Roberts from other articles leads me to believe that its choice for the original placement of the article was well reasoned. Unless editors who come along later can explain why they think that choice was an error, and can also convince others, they should not take it upon themselves to overturn it. In this case the move was disruptive. At the very least, the proposed move should have been discussed on the talk page, as this article appears to be highly visible. Chris the speller 16:09, 31 May 2007 (UTC)


Is it appropriate to add birth date and place information in a parenthetical when a spouse is mentioned in a biography?--Vbd (talk) 05:44, 3 June 2007 (UTC)

Changed birthname to real name

In "Pseudonyms, stage names and common names" I changed birth name to real name as it confuses people. Some people thought because of this formation that if the person has legally and officially changed his/her birth name, you should still state their birth name as the main name which, as we all understand not right. Northern 13:59, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

How to deal with lists within articles / notable achievements

A number of biographies, especially those of professional athletes, incorporate lists into the articles themselves. Is this stylistically appropriate? For example, Michael Jordan, there is a list of his accomplishments displayed in the article. However, that list also has its' own article here. Should athletes' pages incorporate awards in list format? I think that is a bad idea. If a person has such an extensive amount of accomplishments that warrant a list, then, like the MJ article, that information can be displayed in its' own article. If not, it would seem likely that the information should just be incorporated into the "meat" of the article. I think that this article needs to address what to do with "lists". Thoughts? //Tecmobowl 04:34, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

I don't see any problem with that article. It's a format in widespread use. It's easy to see the main achievements summarised in list form (much easier to see than if the same material was in the main text) and anyone wanting all the details can go to the separate list on its own article. Tyrenius 04:41, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
You mean you don't have a problem with the Michael Jordan page having a list of his information or you don't have a problem with his accomplishments having it's own article? //Tecmobowl
Both. His page has a summary of (presumably) the most important achievements, while the complete list has its own article - for space reasons. Tyrenius 04:47, 18 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Okay, well that sort of gets to my other point. I think that this Manual should account for what is and is not acceptable according to the "consensus". So what do we do? And are we sure that the consensus is that small lists of athletic accomplishments should be provided in text format when they have not been communicated in other places within the article? //Tecmobowl 05:00, 18 June 2007 (UTC)

Is it necessary to state Florence, Italy or Danzig, Poland?

Is it necessary to add the country every time a city is mentioned, to make sure nobody associates the wrong country with a city name, like Florence, Italy to make clear that Firenze in Italia is not a French city?

Or should the link to the city article be enough, especially in controversial cases like Danzig? Many historical bios related to the town were/are affected by edit warring, see the history of those on the List of famous born Gedanians, and also others who once worked [14] [15] or traveled there.

I'd say that a biography should focus on the person, not the history and political background of the place she/he was born, lived or died, and thus the country name should be left out especially if it leads to endless edit warring, like at this stub which has seen few content additions other than reverting, which was resumed after more than a year of peace [16] -- Matthead discuß!     O       03:15, 13 July 2007 (UTC)

As discussed elsewhere [17], I picked randomly an entry from Category:People from Warsaw and found that in Wanda Landowska ("was a Polish (later a naturalized French citizen) harpsichordist"), no country is mentioned next to a city name. It says "Landowska was born in Warsaw", not "Landowska was born in 1879 in Warsaw, Russian Empire". She later studied in Berlin and Paris, yet no mention of the countries involved (BTW, I choose not to comment on POV etc. in the last section). If Russian, German or French editors were as eager as some Poles, then Russia, Germany and France would have been written all over this bio (and many others). Next pick, Ludomir Rozycki, same story, a stub about a "Polish composer" born in 1884. Both articles somehow forget to state that those persons were born as subjects of the Russian Czar. Without further inquiry I dare to say that most other bios of people born in the same time and place probably are written in the same way, with the prominent Marie Curie being the exemption to this rule due to international attention. -- Matthead discuß!     O       15:03, 14 July 2007 (UTC)
I don't think it's necessary to put the country every time a city is mentioned. This is an American convention (probably due to the number of American cities with the same name and therefore the necessity to list the state) that most non-Americans don't follow. For instance, most Europeans would never say Paris, France or London, England. It's just assumed that's where you're talking about unless you specify otherwise. -- Necrothesp 13:53, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
I think that this depends on context. I notice a lot of American biographical articles which don't specify the subject's nationality at all, just saying "John Smith (1901-1902) was a infant prodigy musician who…". This can be amended to "John Smith (1901-1902) was a infant prodigy Canadian musician who…", but isn't also acceptable to use the format "John Smith (1901-1902) was a infant prodigy musician from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada who…"? It's probably better as "John Smith (1901-1902) was a infant prodigy Canadian musician from Edmonton, Alberta, who…", but is tieing the country to city deprecated? --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 14:10, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
I always favour putting nationality in the first line if possible. "John Smith (1901–1902) was a Canadian infant prodigy musician." And in the next paragraph "He was born in Edmonton, Alberta." There does seem to be a bit of a presumption that the person is obviously American unless otherwise specified and that should definitely be deprecated. As for cities, I think the point is that some cities are just so famous they don't need further clarification. Even in America: why on earth do you need to say Chicago, Illinois? It should be obvious unless you specify another state that it's the very large city in Illinois you're referring to.
Mind you, I do recall some years ago (pre-Wikipedia) having an internet discussion with a Canadian when we were referring to "London" and it was some time before it dawned on us that I was talking about my capital city and he was talking about London, Ontario. It's just the natural presumption to most people, I think, that London is the capital of Britain; but obviously people from Ontario think differently! -- Necrothesp 15:16, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Dates of birth and death duplication.

Please see Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (dates and numbers)#Dates of birth and death duplication. -- Jeandré, 2007-08-13t10:59z

Please don't go there. This is the correct forum. The question posed by Jeandré was "If the biography has an infobox, can we have the dates in there only instead of duplicating it after the name?" Chris the speller 15:08, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Biography subheading

In biographical articles, is it ever appropriate to have a "Biography" subheading? If the whole article is a biography, such a subheading seems redundant - and makes me wonder what the rest of the article is all about. See: Merv Griffin for an example. I saw no reference to this on the project page or the Manual of Style. Rklawton 21:21, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Revisiting people normally known by their middle name

This is a followup to a brief and inconclusive discussion earlier in the year: see Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (biographies)/Archive 5#People_normally_known_by_their_middle_name.

I had been using the format "(Samuel) James Smith" for people known by their middle names, but this format has just been removed (and reverted when I restored it) by another editor who insisted that the MoS deprecated this, which surprised me, because parenthesising the first name is a widely-used practice in British biographical articles, and I had seen nothing to deprecate it.

It turns out that a change to the MoS was made in this edit on 23 September 2006, and although here was a subsequent edit war over this and other changes, I can find no relevant discussion at the time -- the only discussion I can find is that in January 2007.

It seems to me that there the best solution here would be flexibility, allowing several different approaches, and that the parenthesised first name should be one of the options. Any thoughts? (I will notify participants in the previous discussions). --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 12:36, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

I disagree with the idea of flexiblity - there should be one standard approach, having more than one would lead to many edit wars. I believe the current MoS is how it should be. Having brakcets looks messy and is unnecessary. People can tell from the article title and the article itself that the person was known by their middle name, we do not to put the first name in brackets to tell them. And if necessary, as "known as ..." after the birth-death brackets could be inserted. --UpDown 12:46, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
Article titles can take many different formats, particularly with people who held one or more titles, and are frequently a poor guide to naming. The brackets are a simple and unobtrusive way of making it clear that there was an unused first name, without leaving the reader to infer it.
This is the format used by Dictionary of National Biography. For example, the DNB article on Neville Chamberlain (subscription required) opens "Chamberlain, (Arthur) Neville (1869–1940), prime minister, was born …", which seems to me to be much less messy than the wikipedia article Neville Chamberlain, which opens "Arthur Neville Chamberlain (18 March 1869 – 9 November 1940), known as Neville Chamberlain, was a …".
There are several other issues in the MOS which allow flexibility without causing edit wars, such as in the formatting of dates, where the guidance is that is more than one option is applicable, use that adopted by the first major contributor to the article. That guidance seems to work very well. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 13:05, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but there is no reason to use brackets on one article and not on another. How would people decide which is best of a particular article, I don't believe the first major contributor is either fair or just. It would also create a differance on articles, which makes Wikipedia looks stupid. We need a definate policy, and I think the current one works fine. The opening line for Neville Chamberlain to me is fine and a lot better than it would be with brackets, which are messy. And the DNB do things very diferantly to Wikipedia as shown by their opening line, so what they do is immaterial. --UpDown 13:19, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
On the contrary, I believe that parenthesising uncommonly used first names looks messy and can be confusing. Just a personal opinion of course, but I prefer to give the full name without parenthesis, then the dates, then the name by which the individual was actually known. I consider this far less confusing, particularly for people whose first language isn't English and who may not understand what the parentheses mean. You are correct that the DNB does it your preferred way, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the best way - the DNB was written by scholars who assumed everyone understood such conventions, and its consumers are probably primarily similar people. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is more a general encyclopaedia than a scholarly work and its consumers are not necessarily versed in scholarly conventions. I do, however, believe that the common name should always be listed for the sake of clarity, even if it's the article title. -- Necrothesp 13:29, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
Having different approaches doesn't necessarily make WP look stupid (we do fine with the different date formats), but I do think it's a problem that whereas Neville Chamberlain opens with one method of explaining a name, an editor who think's that's fine edits another article to remove any indication of the use of the middle name. We need a better solution than one where an apparently unilateral change to the guidelines is used to justify that inconsistency. In any case, surely the current guidelines deprecate the format used on Neville Chamberlain just as much as the parenthesied format?
If the bracketed format is to be deprecated (I'd prefer it wasn't, but that may be the consensus, and Necrothesp has a good point abut the difft audience), could we at least amend the guidelines to permit (or require, I don't mind) the format used on Neville Chamberlain? --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs)
I would have no problem with that. I should have done so with Ruth Dalton. --UpDown 13:41, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I agree the guidelines should be amended. -- Necrothesp 14:01, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

How's this for wording:

Where the subject uses one of their middle name rather than their first name, that should be indicated by including a "known as" phrase after the dates of birth and death. The style of placing unused first names in brackets should not be used;

--BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 14:38, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Looks fine. -- Necrothesp 15:04, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
I suggest that having apparently reached agreement between three editors here, that we leave it a few days before implementing the changes, to see if anyone else wants to contribute. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 15:10, 16 August 2007 (UTC)
It looks good to me. Chris the speller 15:30, 16 August 2007 (UTC)

Hold on a minute...

Thanks for drawing my attention to this debate, which I believe is missing the point. It appears that a significant number of people are under the impression that there is something uniquely important about a person's first forename, and that it should be accorded special status. To me, the sight of Brian Jones's name with 'Lewis' in brackets but 'Hopkin' not is bizarre and indefensible. He had three forenames, one of which was the main one. 'Nuff said. Similarly, to say that Brian Jones was known as Brian Jones strikes me as unnecessary. That was his name. It's the article's title. I'm genuinely puzzled as to what information this recently added assertion is intended to convey.
What I am trying to say is that, whatever convention Wikipedia follows, it should not discriminate between juxtonyms and schizonyms. If we say "James Paul McCartney (known as Paul McCartney)" then we have to say "John Ono Lennon (born John Winston Lennon, known as John Lennon)", and do the same for every person who is not known by their full name – i.e. the vast majority.
P.S. Is it purely coincidence that you recently edited Are You Dave Gorman?, whose talk page carries my most extensive and impassioned plea for resistance to schizonymacentricity (the very set of assumptions responsible for such misleading phrases as "known by their middle name")? Grant 12:47, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
Grant, I'm not sue who the "you" is that you refer to in your PS, so I can't help you on that point, but it seems to me that you are missing something here. The issue, as I see it is that in English-style naming, most people have two or more given names and a surname, and are known for most purposes by the first given name and the surname; those who other combinations (such as middle name+surname or first two names+surname) are the exception. Presented with a name like "Eric Alfred Theodore William FitzRoy", readers know that unless told otherwise that person can be assumed to use for most purposes the name "Eric Fitzroy", or (e.g. in North America, where the middle initial is widely used, as "Eric A. Fitzroy".
The purpose of spelling out the use of a middle name is simply to clarify to reader from the start that the disparity between the article title and the list of names is a) not a mistake, and b) is a customary usage rather than the result of a change of name. In most cases, this adds only four words to the lead para, so it's hardly cluttersome; and as above, it will apply only to a fairly small minority of articles.
I think that with the example of Brian Jones, you may misunderstand what is being proposed: it's not matter of saying (tautologically) that "Brian Jones was known as Brian Jones", but rather of saying that "Lewis Brian Jones was known as Brian Jones", concisely clarifying an apparent inconsistency. That's all.
BTW, there seems to be consensus here not to use brackets, but to describe it as an "indefensible" practice seems odd: the Dictionary of National Biography is a highly-respected publication which uses it. The less current Dictionary of Australian biography] uses the "known as" format: see, for example Penleigh Boyd. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 16:46, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
For a detailed response, see subsection below. Grant 00:40, 22 August 2007 (UTC)
I actually came here, following a message left on my talk page, to say pretty much exactly the same thing as Grant has above. I think names in brackets look terribly ugly, especially as the very first word in an article, which is what the brackets-policy would result in. I also fail to see the point of saying "John William Smith (born XYZ), known as William Smith...". It's completely obvious from the article title that he's called that. I really can't imagine anyone coming across such an article and thinking "The article title says William Smith, but William's his middle name! What's going on???", and I also can't imagine anyone thinking such a situation is due to a mistake on our part ("Ha ha! His name was John Smith but those fools at Wikipedia have called the article William Smith! What idiots!"). And you mention people known by both first names: surely we aren't going to put "John William Smith, known as John William Smith"? "George Walker Bush, known as George W. Bush"? I really don't see why the article title (combined with the person's usual name as the caption of a picture in appropriate cases) isn't enough in all these cases. "Known as..." should be reserved for people whose usual name is totally unrelated to their full name ("known as Bono" and what not), not overused in obvious cases. Proteus (Talk) 18:18, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
The Wikipedia convention for biographical article titles is that they use the the name someone is most commonly known as. Therefore I agree with Proteus that no further explanation is necessary unless there are exceptional circumstances (for example, being known as a completely different name). This is certainly how I've always read articles on Wikipedia, e.g. Rupert Murdoch.
If we were going to use parentheses, all parts of a name that aren't commonly used should be in brackets – for many articles, that would be the person's middle name. On the other hand, if we are always going to put "known as..." in cases where someone doesn't simply use their first given name and surname, we should include it for articles where someone uses both forenames, e.g. Sarah Jessica Parker (otherwise, by some people's reckoning, readers will think it's Sarah Parker, right?) Using the article title and any captions to give the preferred form of a person's name is the best solution. Let's save "known as..." for when we really need it as it does clutter up the opening. JRawle (Talk) 20:56, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
Once again I make the point I made above. You're coming to this as native English speakers who don't need clarification. I believe it is a good idea to make things as unambiguous as possible. It would also only work if the article title always reflected the name by which the person was commonly known. In many cases it doesn't, particularly where full names have been used as article titles in order to disambiguate people with the same first name/surname combination. -- Necrothesp 21:06, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
That shouldn't be done. John (William) Smith and John (Henry) Smith should be disambiguated as "John Smith (astronaut)" and "John Smith (musician)" or whatever, both to avoid the possible confusion you mention and because the disambiguation system has been expressly designed to use bracketed disambiguating terms to allow ease of linking using the pipe trick. And I really don't see how it's a language issue. How is knowledge or lack thereof of the English language going to affect whether someone realises that article names correspond to the common name of the subject of the article? Proteus (Talk) 22:23, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
Whether it should or shouldn't be done (and no policy says it shouldn't be done), it has been done. I fail to see why piping is any easier with a bracketed disambiguator than with a middle name. I also think you are forgetting that not every language constructs names as ours does. When is clarification ever a bad thing? -- Necrothesp 22:37, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
When it clutters up articles and is unnecessary for the overwhelming majority of readers. If "it might clarify it for someone" were an incontrovertible argument for putting stuff in articles, even the simplest thing would become ridiculously long: we could have a bracketed definition after non-simple words in case someone doesn't know what they mean ("he entered into a contract (a legally enforceable agreement) with..."), the British English equivalent of every US English term after it (and vice versa) ("he put the body in the trunk (or boot, if you're in the Commonwealth)", a summary of historical events to remind people what happened in them whenever they're mentioned ("he fought at the Battle of Waterloo (the one where Napolean was defeated by Wellington)"), and so on and so on. At the end of the day, we're writing an encyclopaedia, and so we have to assume the reader has a certain amount of basic intelligence, or the whole thing just wouldn't work. The ability to work out that if an article begins "John William Smith" followed by a date or dates and "William Smith" is written in big letters just above that then it's about a chappy who used his middle name is, I would say, something we can expect people to have. As for disambiguation, John Smith (whatsit) allows you to link with [[John Smith (whatsit)|]] whereas John William Smith requires [[John William Smith|John Smith]] (and, of course, requires whoever's linking to check the article to see whether he is "John Smith" or "William Smith"). Proteus (Talk) 23:06, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
Er no, because those things should be linked, allowing clarification with a single click of the mouse. That's why we link in the first place. As to piping, good grief, you mean it takes a few extra characters? Woe! Woe! Very few people use that way of piping anyway - I'm not actually sure I've ever seen anyone use it. I don't quite understand your last point - if the article's entitled William Smith then [[John Smith (whatsit)|]] wouldn't link to it anyway. If a disambiguator is used then the person doing the linking is still going to have to check to see exactly what disambiguator has been used - they're rarely 100% obvious. -- Necrothesp 23:18, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Proteus, putting known as is stating the obvious and is not necessary. --UpDown 07:51, 20 August 2007 (UTC)
UpDown, this looks like the direct opposite of what you wrote above, a few days ago. It's a Good Thing™ to be ready to chnage ones mind, but maybe you could clairify what prompted you to change your mind here?
For those who say that this isn't necessary, why do the biographical dictionaries do it? The ODNB etc have been publishing biographical articles for a lot longer than wikipedia has existed, and as far as I can see they all agree that is a need for some form of clarification, though they differ about which form to use. Doesn't that usage tell us something about the need for this? --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 10:35, 21 August 2007 (UTC)
From what I've seen of the ODNB, they don't have what we have (a main title before the subject's full name), meaning further clarification of the actual name used may be needed. Any need for that in WP is eliminated by the article title. Proteus (Talk) 11:05, 21 August 2007 (UTC)
BrownHairedGirl what I said was I would have "no problem with that", I did not say I liked the idea (hence why I had never inserted in personally, and hence what I did at Ruth Dalton). At the time it looked like a small discussion between 3 people, and with me the only one against the idea I thought it was best just to comprimise and not argue further. Since the discussion has enlarged and I discovered I am not the only with the view that "known as" is unnecessary, so I thought I could set the record straight with my views. --UpDown 12:22, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

Response to BrownHairedGirl's initial reply to my 'Hold on a minute...'

Rather than break the flow of what BrownHairedGirl has written above, I've copied it below, and given my responses at the appropriate points.

Grant, I'm not sue who the "you" is that you refer to in your PS, so I can't help you on that point...
It was you. On 4 August 2007, you changed "East Fife" to "East Fife". But given the thousands of edits you've made since then, I'm not surprised you've forgotten about it. Looks like it was pure coincidence, then. But the point is... I beseech you to read the corresponding talk page, because it goes deeper into many of the points I'm trying to make here.
... but it seems to me that you are missing something here. The issue, as I see it is that in English-style naming, most people have two or more given names and a surname...
How you see it? Hmmm... Most people? Possibly. But many people have only one given name. Probably more than you imagine.
... and are known for most purposes by the first given name and the surname...
Well... it's probably true that more people have their main forename placed first, than have it placed second, third, etc. But it's not an overwhelming majority. "Most people" are right-handed, but we don't structure Wikipedia articles about left-handed people differently from those about right-handed people.
... those who other combinations (such as middle name+surname or first two names+surname) are the exception.
Well, no, actually... It's hard to get accurate figures, and representative lists giving full names and main forenames are somewhat thin on the ground, but let's take British prime ministers of the last hundred years as a case in point. By my reckoning, only eight out of nineteen conform to your schizonym stereotype of normality. The other eleven are juxtonyms – three with only one forename, and eight known by the second of two. Hardly an exception, then.
... Presented with a name like "Eric Alfred Theodore William FitzRoy", readers know that unless told otherwise that person can be assumed to use for most purposes the name "Eric Fitzroy", or (e.g. in North America, where the middle initial is widely used, as "Eric A. Fitzroy".
Why on earth would they 'know' that?
The purpose of spelling out the use of a middle name is simply to clarify to reader from the start that the disparity between the article title and the list of names...
What disparity? I suspect you only see one because you are unaware just how common juxtonymy is. Take a look at the quaintly named List of people known by middle name before they delete it (ironically, on the grounds that it's too long to signify anything unusual). The fact that Kevin Keegan isn't known as Joseph is no more a 'disparity' than the fact that David Beckham isn't known as Joseph. 'Most people' with more than one forename have one that is used for everyday purposes. There is no reason why that needs to be the first one. And no reason to comment on it, either way.
... is a) not a mistake, and b) is a customary usage rather than the result of a change of name. In most cases, this adds only four words to the lead para, so it's hardly cluttersome;
Alternatively, you could insert the words "Clutter, clutter, clutter, clutter," into the first sentence of any article. It's only four words, but it's still clutter.
... and as above, it will apply only to a fairly small minority of articles.
No... a very large minority, at least.
I think that with the example of Brian Jones, you may misunderstand what is being proposed...
... it's not matter of saying (tautologically) that "Brian Jones was known as Brian Jones", but rather of saying that "Lewis Brian Jones...
Do you mean Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones? You appear to have omitted one supplementary forename but not the other. Was there a reason for that?
... was known as Brian Jones", concisely clarifying an apparent inconsistency.
No. Merely perpetuating the popular misconception that led you to assume it was an inconsistency in the first place.
... That's all.
BTW, there seems to be consensus here not to use brackets, but to describe it as an "indefensible" practice seems odd: the Dictionary of National Biography is a highly-respected publication which uses it...
They don't use it consistently, though, do they? The ODNB's own list of British prime ministers, for instance, gives no indication that Bonar Law's first forename was rarely, if ever, used.
... The less current Dictionary of Australian biography] uses the "known as" format: see, for example Penleigh Boyd.
In fact, it uses "always known as". I can almost see the adverb edit wars now... But, as other people have already pointed out: Because the article's title is "BOYD, THEODORE PENLEIGH", there is at least an excuse for establishing what name Boyd actually used. In Wikipedia, that is not necessary. The question is: Why do they not also establish the usual names of those who manage to get through their daily lives without recourse to a second or third forename. The answer, of course, is rampant schizonymacentricity. Were I numbered among the editors of one of these august publications, I would argue my case fiercely in that forum. As it is, I can at least endeavour to ensure that Wikipedia does not fall into the same trap.

Sorry if the foregoing seems like a rant, but this matters to me. Grant 00:40, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

A Google search for "schizonymacentricity" shows precisely four hits, two of which are your uses on this page. I can see that schizonymacentricity is an important issue for you, but it doesn't appear to be so for anyone else. --BrownHairedGirl (talk) • (contribs) 21:30, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

Naming of female relatives

I have noticed a tendency to "revert" female relatives to their maiden names in biographical articles. Articles often say something like "John Jones was born in 1938 to Bob Jones and Nancy Smith", even though "Nancy Smith" did not go by her maiden name. This is probably a result of some genealogical tables which use maiden names, but is certainly misleading for biographical purposes. I first noticed this in an article on Congressman Ron Paul, where both his wife and mother were referenced solely, and inaccurately, by their maiden names.

Since this may be due to confusion from looking at raw genealogical tables, should something be added to the manual to clarify that relatives should not be reverted to names which they themselves do not use? Lnh27 10:02, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

I agree. I've always found it odd when somebody's mother is referred to by her maiden name, thus implying that the subject of the article was illegitimate. -- Necrothesp 10:43, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

From the Franz Liszt article: "His parents were Adam and Maria Anna Liszt (née Lager)". I see nothing offensive in this. Is it a suitable model? Chris the speller 14:55, 21 August 2007 (UTC)

That's fine, although "His parents were Adam Liszt and Maria Anna Liszt (née Lager)" is better, as the other form implies his father too was born Lager - it may be obvious what it means, but it still isn't very good English. But it would be confusing (and incorrect) if she was listed just as Maria Anna Lager, which wasn't her name when her son was born. I also dislike "the former" (e.g. "His parents were Adam Liszt and the former Maria Anna Lager"), which seems to be a common American form and suggests that his mother was dead when he was born, had changed her forenames as well, or had become nameless! She's not the former Maria Anna Lager, but Maria Anna Liszt, formerly Lager. - -- Necrothesp 15:25, 21 August 2007 (UTC)
I have to admit that I do this "the former" thing quite a lot, but then I tend to edit articles on peers, and saying "his parents were the 7th Earl of York and the Countess of York" seems to me to be rather unhelpful, whereas "his parents were the 7th Earl of York and the former Lady Isabella Plantagenet" actually says what his mother's name was. I would tend to agree it's not appropriate in articles on commoners. Proteus (Talk) 17:49, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Upon further examination, this practice appears to be quite rampant. I was surprised to see otherwise well-edited articles on major figures affected by it. Though I am sure that most cases are honest mistakes, I imagine that this could be viewed by some readers as patronising or politically motivated. Could someone with more experience please write up an addition to the Manual, if I am correct that this practice is inappropriate for biographical purposes? Lnh27 17:20, 22 August 2007 (UTC)

Postnominal letters

I would like to suggest that the manual of style indicate that postnominal letters to indicate knighthoods and similar honors (such as GCB) should not be included in the lead sentence if the subject was not associated with a country where such postnominals are normally used. (I'm not sure exactly how to phrase that.) I don't think that a United States president like Bill Clinton should have his article begin "William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton, GCL" in reference to an honor he received from Papua New Guinea, as it once did. [18] --Metropolitan90 18:52, 1 September 2007 (UTC)

I agree with the above proposal. Including a string of postnominal initials in the body of an article makes it rather difficult to read and destroys the flow for instance the article on Bob Rae begins "Robert Keith "Bob" Rae, PC, OC, OOnt, QC, BA, LLB, BPhi, LLD (honoris causa) (born August 2, 1948) is a Canadian politician." When there is an infobox, I would like to propose listing the postnomials in the infobox only instead of in the body of the article. Reginald Perrin 22:04, 7 September 2007 (UTC)

But that's not the proposal at all, since the first four postnoms are applicable to Mr Rae's country and the last three shouldn't be included anyway, since they're degrees. Postnoms applicable to the individual's own country should most certainly be included - the proposal was referring to foreign honours. -- Necrothesp 22:14, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
The non-inclusion of postnominal letters indicating degrees is not clear in the policy. I've added the following to the section on Academic titles in accord with Necrothesp's statement above: "Postnominal letters indicated academic degrees (including honorary degrees) should not be included following the subject's name.". Reginald Perrin 13:20, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
Ah, well I'll expand the proposal then. I'd like to propose that if an infobox exists, the postnominals should go there rather than in the body of the article. Reginald Perrin 22:18, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
I disagree. Postnominals signifying domestic honours should always be added in the body of the article. -- Necrothesp 23:22, 7 September 2007 (UTC)
Why? As long as the postnominals are mentioned in the infobox, why interrupt the article with a recitation of the alphabet? Reginald Perrin 01:34, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Because in the Commonwealth these postnoms are frequently used and are if anything a more important part of a person's name than unused middle names, which we wouldn't dream of removing. It's no more an "interruption" of the article than listing birth and death dates. I personally dislike infoboxes anyway, which I consider to be ugly and unnecessary, and if they must be used I certainly wouldn't consider them a place to which to relegate important information. -- Necrothesp 13:56, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Reginald Perrin, are you aware that the word is spelled "postnominal", not "postnomial"? -- JackofOz 14:10, 8 September 2007 (UTC)
Postnomial sounds better:) Thanks for the correction. Reginald Perrin 17:31, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Support the original proposal. To me, having the postnominals as the second thing in the article seems a bit excessive, at least for people who are from countries where postnominals are never used. There are some issues with people who changed nationalities Bob Hope, but I think the original proposal is a reasonable guideline.

I don't have a strong opinion on post-nominals in countries where they matter. From an outsider's point of view, I think it's weird that the intro-paragraph puts the recognition of notability (post-nominals) before the reason why someone was notable in the first place... but I realize some people argume post-nominals are an inseparable part of the name. — PyTom (talk) 14:15, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Generally, I support the original proposal, although I think exceptions should be made for people like Bob Hope who would have continued to hold British nationality (and therefore would have been Sir Bob) if he'd been born later. -- Necrothesp 14:43, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Maybe not a perfect example; if he had been born 5 years later, he wouldn't have been British at all, but American by birth. ;-) Chris the speller 16:02, 8 September 2007 (UTC)

Do we have consensus about postnominal initials only being used if the subject was associated with the country where the honor is awarded? Right now, Ronald Reagan begins with a GCB, which seems like an odd situation. — PyTom (talk) 17:44, 27 September 2007 (UTC)

Changing name legally vs otherwise

Per this edit what is the community's take on this and also see Fred Thompson. Thanks --Tom 06:46, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

I disagree with your change to this Manual of Style. If a person changes his or her name, then Wikipedia should not require proof that court papers have been filed, in order for Wikipedia to recognize the name change.Ferrylodge 06:53, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
How about reliable sources wp:rs? We should have reliable sources that say the person has "changed" their name? --Tom 06:56, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

(undent) The paragraph of this Manual of Style in question says (with your proposed change in bold italics):

If we have a reliable source that a person has changed his or her name, then we should not require additional legal evidence (i.e. we should not require a reliable source that the person has filed court papers). All that should be needed is a reliable source that the name has been changed.Ferrylodge 07:07, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

That actually doesn't sound to bad. Maybe we can reach some consensus here :) --Tom 07:10, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
Whats the difference between Edwards and Thompson?--Tom 07:17, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
Why do you want to change Edwards to Thompson? Could it possibly be to influence the outcome of ongoing discussion at the Fred Thompson article???Ferrylodge 07:19, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
To piss you off?:) j/k No seriously, what do you see the differences as?--Tom 07:22, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
I see a need not to change a Manual of Style unless there is a valid reason.Ferrylodge 07:25, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
So I guess we should take this back to the Thompson page?--Tom 07:30, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
Yup.Ferrylodge 07:40, 9 September 2007 (UTC)

But now you do see a reason to change the Manual of Style, Ferrylodge? Tvoz |talk 05:45, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Please stop playing games. I said that there was no valid reason for the change proposed by Threeafterthree. I did not say that there is no valid reason for any change whatsoever in this article.Ferrylodge 06:32, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

John Edwards

This article says about Edwards:

I think this is incorrect. First of all, the phrase "John Edwards was born with the name Johnny Reid Edwards" does not imply that he has actually changed his name. Likewise, "John Edwards (born as Johnny Reid Edwards)" would not imply that he had actually changed his name. So, I don't see anything wrong with writing in the lede "John Edwards (born as Johnny Reid Edwards)." This is more in accord with BLP principles, since it does not begin the article with a name that the article's subject disfavors or may have rejected.

Incidentally, according to the Charlotte Observer, Edwards "changed his name, although not legally. In law school, he started referring to himself as John. He believed that sounded better for his new career." This is another independent reason not to treat Edwards' name any differently from Bill Clinton's name. Surely, a man can change his name without filing court papers, just as a woman can, right?Ferrylodge 03:39, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

So, I propose to change the above-quoted sentences to the following:

Any objections?Ferrylodge 03:58, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

That doesn't quite do it for me. As far as I can tell, neither Johnny Reid Edwards nor James Earl Carter have changed their legal names, but are both generally known by other names (John and Jimmy, respectively). The only difference I can see is that Carter is often given his full legal name in presidential lists etc, whereas Edwards is almost never referred to as "Johnny" anywhere, except in places like the intro to biographical articles, just as Carter is introduced as "James Earl (Jimmy) Carter". If Edwards ever makes it to the White House, there will be many references to "Johnny Reid (John) Edwards". -- JackofOz 05:26, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
JackofOz, why must formal court papers be filed before Wikipedia will recognize a man's name change? If a woman decides to drop her married name, or start using her married name, then Wikipedia will immediately change the first words of an article accordingly. But if a man stops using his first name, and uses another instead, then Wikipedia now insists on starting out an article with the rejected first name.
"Jimmy" is Carter's nickname. Obviously, "John" is not a nickname of Edwards. The differences seem plain to me. Don't you think it's important not to start out an article with a name that the subject of the article has changed or rejected? This seems like an important and obvious principle for a biography of a living person. Why can't that birth name be put afterward in parentheses?Ferrylodge 06:39, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
I object to the proposal. We're rarely if ever in possession of definitive documents regarding legal name changes, and may or may not know whether a subject has rejected a name or just started using a different one as he or she got older or what. Common sense should prevail of course, but I see no reason to change this facet of MOSBIO which is in effect all over the encyclopedia. Some examples: Judith Giuliani, John Edwards, Rudy Guiliani, Bill Richardson, Joe Lieberman, Al Gore, Bob Kerrey, etc. Bill Clinton is in fact a different situation - he changed his surname which is more complicated than changing one's first name or adopting a new first name - it is extremely likely that Bill Clinton's name change was a legal change, and that his official legal documents use "Clinton" not "Blythe" so the way it is rendered in the article is correct and also makes sense. But it is not clear whether John Edwards or Fred Thompson (the reason Ferrylodge is raising this question - see Talk:Fred Thompson) actually had their first names legally changed from Johnny and Freddie, or if they merely took on a more mature version of their original birth names, not unlike how Jimmy Carter took on a more informal version of his. In all three cases, it seems to me that the correct model is Bill Richardson not Bill Clinton, and I think the way MOSBIO reads is correct, clear and shouldn't be changed. Likewise, I think Fred Thompson's name should be rendered the way John Edwards' is - their situations seem virtually identical. And this wording is shorter and simpler than the ungainly "John Edwards (born [date] as Johnny Reid Edwards)" , which implies a legal name change. We don't have to take care that there's an implication that someone uses a version of their birthname, as in using "Bill" or "Jimmy" instead of "William" or "James" - it's uncontroversial and clear that people use nicknames, and we render them in quotes. The cases of Edwards and Thompson are a little odd because the name in quotes, the name they use, is the more formal name, but otherwise it's exactly the same as all of the many many articles that have nicknames in quotes. MOSBIO is correct as it stands. Tvoz |talk 05:43, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Tvoz, is there any substantial reason to believe that Rudy Guiliani, Bill Richardson, Joe Lieberman, Al Gore, or Bob Kerrey has rejected or changed their birth names?Ferrylodge 06:45, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
And, this Manual of Style currently says, "in all cases, a woman should be called by the name she is most widely known under." Why should we begin articles about men with incredibly obscure names that the men have rejected as embarassing, but fully accomodate women's naming preferences?Ferrylodge 06:51, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
  • Completely reject the proposal. The current standard has worked fine for every single article until Ferrylodge began objecting to and removing the display of Fred Thompson's full first name -- "Freddie." User:Ferrylodge invokes John Edwards as his example here, but the real meat of this discussion is based on Freddie Dalton "Fred" Thompson's article. Other editors should be aware of that context when participating here. Italiavivi 05:56, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Editors should also be aware that this is not some kind of sinister plot. Tvoz suggested I visit here, and I have taken up her suggestion. In a biography of a living person, it is poor form for the first words of an article to be a name that the subject of the article has rejected or changed. Does anyone wish to ackowledge that principle? If not, then there is no point in further discussion.Ferrylodge 06:14, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Ferrylodge, I really wish you would try to get your facts straight when you quote me - this is not the first time you have misrepresented my comments to you: I did not suggest that you come here to revise MOSBIO, I asked if you were going to visit Talk: John Edwards and apply the same passionate argument regarding the silliness you seem to see in Freddie to the presumed silliness you would see in Johnny. You chose to bring it here, and it was not at my suggestion. Tvoz |talk 07:25, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Editors should simply know for the sake of context that when discussing this change Fred Thompson is the subject you are most immediately concerned with, not John Edwards. No one said anything about a "sinister plot," no need to take a disagreement so personally. Italiavivi 06:34, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
I am immediately concerned here with John Edwards. Perhaps you can discuss John Edwards now, instead of misrepresenting what I said about Fred Thompson (I have never had any objection to mentioning Thompson's birth name "Freddie" parenthetically in the lede).Ferrylodge 06:42, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

As always, I prefer the version: "Johnny Reid Edwards (born June 10, 1953), known as John Edwards..." which seems pretty unambiguous, makes it clear which name he uses and which name he was born with, and doesn't imply any legal change of name. As to the situation of a woman changing her name on marriage, this is a completely different situation, since a woman doesn't need to formally file separate papers to change her name on marriage - it's legally recognised automatically on her signing the marriage register with her new name. -- Necrothesp 08:44, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

The woman changing her name "automatically" by signing the marriage register depends on where the marriage took place/where the woman lives. Here in Washington, the woman is required to sign using her legal name at the time of marriage and then to file separate paperwork to legally change her name to her "married name".--Bobblehead (rants) 19:20, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
I would have thought that was quite a new development. -- Necrothesp 21:05, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

More on John Reid Edwards

Based on the comments above, I'll revise my suggestion. Regarding the difference between John Edwards and Jimmy Carter, I think a clear and easily recognized difference is that Edwards sometimes goes by "John Reid Edwards" whereas Carter never goes by "Jimmy Earl Carter." Thus:

How about that? This Manual of Style currently says, "in all cases, a woman should be called by the name she is most widely known under." Why should we begin articles about men with incredibly obscure names that the men have rejected as ridiculous?

If there are no objections, I will make this change, though I expect there will probably be objections.Ferrylodge 02:35, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

Ferrylodge, there is an ongoing discussion above as you know - and there is no consensus for changing this section yet, so right, please don't. (Nor am I sure you're right that John Edwards uses "John Reid Edwards" - I'd have to look into that. His official signature does not have "Reid" in it.) But more importantly - I have a real problem with your coming here and trying to change MOSBIO to fit your preference in a dispute on an article page, namely Fred Thompson. Of course you should raise concerns here about MOSBIO, but that's a lot different from trying to put through a rewrite so that your preference on Thompson will be accepted. And yes, I thought Tom was wrong to do that too - I just didn't have a chance to say so. MOSBIO has a lot of people who concentrate on it without regard to specific pages - or politicians that they want to be viewed in a particularly good or bad light - and I think partisanship should stay away from here. The policy wording has gone through years of editing and what we see on the project page is the result of consensus among the editors of this policy page. And if it is to be changed, that should be decided by a broader range of people who are looking at the policy only, not its application to a particular individual's page. There is no emergency here that requires rapid rewriting, and the Thompson debate should be based on whether or not what MOSBIO has stated since August 2005 should apply, with specific regard to the wording: It is not always necessary to spell out why the article title and lead paragraph give a different name. Care must be taken to avoid implying that a person who does not generally use all their forenames or who uses a familiar form has actually changed their name. Therefore: "Johnny Reid "John" Edwards (born June 10, 1953) …" is preferable to saying that John Edwards was born with the name Johnny Reid Edwards. Tvoz |talk 05:52, 11 September 2007 (UTC)
More specifically: Jack of Oz, Italiavivi and I said we didn't agree with your first suggestion and I don't think any of the three said they'd like to see it redone in the way you're now suggesting, Necrothesp prefers an entirely different construction with Johnny Reid Edwards as the first name lisetd and then "known as John Edwards" - which is not at all what you are talking about, and Bobblehead didn't discuss this particular point in his comment. So what gives you the idea that your new version incorporates anything in the above comments? This is disingenuous at best, and feels pointy to me. MOSBIO's section on pseudonyms is not broken - it doesn't need fixing. Tvoz |talk 06:02, 11 September 2007 (UTC)
I think Ferrylodge's interpretation of the snippet of text from Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies)#Maiden names is mistaken, perhaps because of focus on the quoted snippet, omitting all the context. First, the text is in the context of Maiden names, as a subcase of names in general. As most of us know, it has been the common western cultural convention that women change their name to adopt their husband's surname on marriage. While that is not so commonly observerved as it once was, it gives us a style issue with respect to presenting a woman's legal name for a woman who has changed it: the birth name or the married name in the lede? Since the section is so short, I'll quote it in it's entirety:

It is common to give the maiden surname of women better known under their married name, for example:

  • Lucy Washington (née Payne) (1772?–1846), widow of Major George Steptoe Washington, became the wife of Thomas Todd. She was the first woman married in the White House, in 1812.

An alternate form Lucy (Payne) Washington is also widely accepted in genealogical circles.

But in all cases, a woman should be called by the name she is most widely known under. Elizabeth Taylor, even though she was married eight times, would not be referred to under those other surnames.

As we can see, what we have is an example of a woman's married name being presented as the primary name, with two alternate forms of presentation of maiden name, followed by a "But..." with a counterexample of a women "widely known" under her maiden name. However, drilling into the Elizabeth Taylor article, we find that it starts with: Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor.
In other words, the normal interpretation of the section is that it's presenting an apposition between maiden and married names, expressing a general preference for married name, but pointing to exceptions with the sentence that begins with "But ...". It says nothing about "knicknames" versus "full" names; "knicknames are handled in the same various ways for women as for men. For example:
So, the names section's clear and unambiguous statement the subject's full name should be given in the lead paragraph, if known. is conditioned (for women) with guidance about when the appropriate "full name" should be a maiden name or married name. Studerby 19:11, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

I wish we could have some AGF here Tvoz. I would not be suggesting a change in this Manual of Style unless I sincerely thought a change was needed on the merits.Ferrylodge 02:21, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

I can see no need for a change. The current procedures are perfectly satisfactory and perfectly clear. -- Necrothesp 08:17, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

British Monarchs

Concerning say, Queen Elizabeth II should her article not be headed, Elizabeth II of the Commonwealth Realms? While she is primarily based in the UK she is Queen of other areas in equal measure. In regard to say, George V should he not be George V of the British Empire? Gavin Scott 10:21, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

This has come up numerous times (and usually every requested move is heavily voted down, often with a further vote requesting that this point be put to rest!). First off it would be creating titles (WP:OR). Secondly numerous monarchs have reigned over more than one place at the same time (or for different periods) - the convention is that their single highest title is listed. The article name is aiming to easily identify them, not cover every single territory they reigned over. Timrollpickering 11:42, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

Military Rank

Why is it currently the case that military ranks are being included in the first line of a biography, styled as the title of the named individual e.g. 'Admiral of the Fleet Louis Mountbatten'. This seems contradictory to every other convention wikipedia has regarding styles of names. Given that academics who say have the rank of Professor are not allowed to make use of their title, given that it is expected that police officers do not make use of their title in biographical articles e.g. Ian Blair, it seems that excpetion is being made for articles relating to military officers. This all despite the fact that:

  • The individual was not born as 'Admiral of the Fleet Smith'
  • Once leaving the armed forces the individual ceases to be an Admiral of the Fleet
  • The individual is not legally entitled to make use of 'Admiral of the Fleet' as a title on official documents such as a passport
  • Admiral of the Fleet is not a historically used title, evidenced by making use of any good history book.

Surely an agreement can be reached on whether it is appropriate to be confusing ranks and titles? It is shocking that wikipedia has poured such effort into creating a clear guideline for titles in nearly every other scenario, but has completely overlooked the military. I am in favour of stating that Admiral of the Fleet should not be used as a title, specifically not in the first line of an article. AJMW 18:50, 10 November 2007 (UTC)

To answer your points in order:
  • Sir John Smith wasn't born with his title either - that doesn't mean that we don't use it.
  • On leaving the armed forces an officer of or above the rank of major/lieutenant-commander/squadron leader can and frequently does (in Britain at least) continue to use his rank. In addition, 5-star officers never officially retire. So your allegation that on leaving the armed forces admirals of the fleet cease to hold their ranks is untrue on two counts.
  • What on earth has what is used on a passport got to do with what an encyclopaedia uses?
  • What do you mean by "not a historically used title"? I'm not sure what you're getting at.
It is not expected that police ranks will not be used. It is simply not usual for commissioners or chief constables to use their ranks before their names - we hardly ever hear about "Commissioner Sir Ian Blair", we most certainly hear about "Admiral of the Fleet Lord Mountbatten". In addition, military officers, as I've said above, retain their ranks after retirement, and are specifically given permission to do so on retirement, whereas this is not the case with police officers. -- Necrothesp 21:52, 10 November 2007 (UTC)
See also Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Military history/Archive 68#First word in biographies --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 16:27, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

First ladies

A problem has arisen at WP:FAC#Nancy Reagan. She is best known as "Nancy Reagan" but that is clunky. Abbreviating to "Nancy" is deprecated by the guidelines here but calling her "Reagan" courts confusion with the president. Easiest seems to be to call her "Nancy" and her husaband "Ronald", despite the cosiness. What do editors feel about this? And should WP:MOSBIO be changed to reflect this difficulty? --ROGER DAVIES talk 08:52, 14 November 2007 (UTC)

I think it's perfectly acceptable to use first names when to use surnames only would cause confusion (such as married couples, as here). -- Necrothesp 09:37, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
My view too. Is there consensus for reflecting this in the guideline? If so, I'll draft something. --ROGER DAVIES talk 12:36, 14 November 2007 (UTC)
I was the one who started the Nancy Reagan nomination. Roger Davies hit it right on the mark in his description of the problem. I would support a change to the guidelines. Happyme22 (talk) 00:59, 15 November 2007 (UTC)


Unless anyone objects, I propose adding the following section to the Subsequent uses of names section of Manual of Style (biographies) on Thursday, 22 November 2007.

Shared surnames

Where an article deals with two or more people of the same surname—for example, married couples and family members—it is acceptable to refer to them on second mention by their first or given name for clarify and brevity.

Incorrect use: Ronald and Nancy Reagan arrived separately; Ronald Reagan by helicopter and Nancy Reagan by car.
Correct use: Ronald and Nancy Reagan arrived separately; Ronald by helicopter and Nancy by car.
Correct use: The Reagans arrived separately; Ronald by helicopter and Nancy by car.
Incorrect use: Jacob Grimm was thirteen months older than his brother, Wilhelm Grimm.
Correct use: Jacob Grimm was thirteen months older than his brother, Wilhelm.

A great many articles already use this approach so updating the guideline is merely reflecting widespread current practice and providing a clear standard to follow for future articles. I have posted a message about this in WP:Biography --ROGER DAVIES talk 07:59, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

This is exactly what we need, and I support adding it to the MOS Biographies. Happyme22 (talk) 17:44, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Support! --Melty girl (talk) 18:06, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

Support – can't see anything wrong with the proposal at all. Quite obvious, really. — Cheers, JackLee talk 22:54, 18 November 2007 (UTC)

Military postnominals

There is currently a discussion on Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Military history as to whether service postnominals should be included in first lines of military biographies. For example, should a Royal Australian Navy officer have RAN at the end, or is this an unnecessary addition as we have decided that postnoms indicating academic degrees are. Personally, I believe that they are unnecessary and could lead to conflict as many officers change services over their careers, leading to editors who favour one particular service, corps or country changing the postnom to reflect their POV. They do not reflect an honour, award or achievement as most postnoms do, but merely an affiliation. The counter-argument appears to be that they are specifically mandated by some service manuals and therefore should be used. -- Necrothesp (talk) 15:21, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Stephen William Hawking example

The example guven for Hawkin, and the text of the article as it is today, seems to violate the principle it is supposed to illustrate. I won't change it in case I've misunderstood something.

"Postnominal letters indicating academic degrees (including honorary degrees) should not be included following the subject's name.

For example:

None of those postnoms indicates an academic degree. Two (CH CBE) are British honours and one (FRS) is a fellowship, and it's a general rule that FRS is always included if somebody has it, since it is so prestigious. Hawking's degrees are not included. -- Necrothesp (talk) 14:31, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

People with the same surname

The guidelines as they are today read: "To disambiguate between siblings or other well-known relatives with the same surname, use the surname of the article header to indicate that person, and use first names or complete names to indicate siblings or others."

I'd suggest a modification so that the text makes sense by itself, without reference to the article title. I'll start with a few examples, with suggested wording in [brackets]:

Sally Hemings:

Jefferson was alleged during his administration to have fathered several children with slaves; more recently DNA tests indicate that a male in Jefferson's line, possibly but not definitely Jefferson [Thomas or Thomas Jefferson or the statesman] himself, was the father of several of Sally Hemings's children.

George III of the United Kingdom:

...of King George's insanity and health problems. After a final relapse in 1810, George's eldest son, George, Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent. On George's death, the Prince of Wales succeeded his father as George IV.

...of King George's insanity and health problems. After a final relapse in 1810, his eldest son, George, Prince of Wales ruled as Prince Regent. On George III's death the Prince of Wales succeeded his father, as George IV.

Benedict Arnold:

The Arnold family was well off until Arnold's father made several bad business deals

The Arnold family was well off until the future general's father made several bad business deals

(Arnold's father was also called Arnold, of course)

So I'd suggest something on the following lines:

To disambiguate between siblings or other well-known relatives with the same surname, in a paragraph where several people with the same surname are mentioned use the full name of the article header or another word or phrase identifier to indicate that person, and use first names or complete names to indicate siblings or others. In paragraphs where others are not mentioned, the surname of the person who is the subject of the article is usually sufficient.

This could probably be worded better, but should this change of policy be made? Pol098 (talk) 13:24, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Family name

I use "family name" instead of "surname" as in MOST cases (i.e. Western culture) this is how we refer to people.

There are cases where a "surname" MAY refer to something other than a family name, but often we do not address people by these other "surnames" - For instance.

  • We do not call Megawati Sukarnoputri by "Sukarnoputri" - We use Megawati
  • Icelandic people are always referred to by given names - We do not call them by their patronymics.

WhisperToMe (talk) 21:57, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Pasted from my talk page. "(→Subsequent uses of names - surname has a broader meaning than family name; pseudonymous surnames aren't family names; the term "surname" precedes use of family names)"

So, type in "surname" and you will be redirected to family name. Melty, what you said is not 100% true. Also I would like to see a source from you, just like as if you were writing an article.

For instance:

  • The "last part" of a name in some cultures (Korean, Chinese) is actually the family name, and we obviously do not call them by their given names
  • Some cultures have multiple family names (Spanish, Portuguese)
  • Some cultures have no "Family names"
  • In some use the given name is the formal form of address, i.e. with Vietnamese

My edits ought to stand, so I will not only revert yours shortly, BUT I will also clarify this "surname" monkey business by stating that in some cases the family name should NOT be used.

Suppose "Surname" may have a broader meaning, but it is NOT to be used in the formal manner in meanings other than family name -i.e. we do not call Megawati Sukarnoputri "Sukarnoputri" and we do not call Icelandic people by their patronymics. Do you understand what I am saying?

WhisperToMe (talk) 21:51, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

Wow, this has an incredibly uncivil tone. Why so hostile over one disagreement at our first encounter? Sheesh. You changed all the instances of "surname" to "family name". But the two terms are not completely interchangeable, so I changed them back.
You say "Type in 'surname' and you will be redirected to family name." You're asking me for sources while citing Wikipedia as a source? Not really a valid argument. Here's my source:
surname. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved December 10, 2007, from website:
c.1330, "name, title, or epithet added to a person's name," from sur "above" + name; modeled on Anglo-Fr. surnoun "surname" (c.1325), variant of O.Fr. surnom, from sur "over" + nom "name." Meaning "family name" is first found 1375. Hereditary surnames existed among Norman nobility in England in early 12c., among common people began to be used 13c., increasingly frequent until near universal by end of 14c. The process was later in the north of England than the south. The verb is attested from 1548.
While "surname" has become somewhat interchangeable in English for "family name," it is not completely interchangeable with "family name." "Last name" isn't a good use either, since some surnames ("above the name") do not come last. Some older biography subjects will simply not have "family names" because they predate such a thing. Surname can also come from a profession or a title or an epithet and not be a family name at all -- or they can be pseudonyms that are not the person's family name.
Finally, some of what you're talking about here and what you did to the page goes beyond terminology and gets into the area of changing a WP guideline. You cannot simply step in and change a guideline like this. It must be discussed and consensed upon first. --Melty girl (talk) 23:16, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
1. "While "surname" has become somewhat interchangeable in English for "family name," it is not completely interchangeable with "family name."" - Then a new article needs to be written at "Surname," *with* sources.
2. So, maybe "surname" *could* mean something different than a "family name," BUT in the instance I see, "family name" is clearly intended. See, in many of these cultures which involve "older biography subjects will simply not have "family names" because they predate such a thing" - in many cases they are not referred to by these "surnames" - Besides, this is an exception. The general rule among people on Wikipedia is that they have family names, and the general rule for that is to use the said family names. There are exceptions, but that guideline is meant to be general.
3. I can wait for consensus is there is an objection to the actual change. In all likelihood, the same intent is given, and the rule is essentially the same - I don't see why there is a fuss. I just changed the wording to make it clearer. The guideline is not functionally different with this change; in the end of the day people are still referred to by family names, no? After this discussion, do you have an actual objection to the new wording as opposed to the old wording? WhisperToMe (talk) 23:45, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
I do have a question, though: Is the guideline suggesting that, as a general rule, these European historical figures are to be called by the other forms of surnames? If so, why can't we disambiguate this? Perhaps point to a manual of style involving these European historical figures? WhisperToMe (talk) 23:48, 10 December 2007 (UTC)
Also, I don't see how changing the wording will change the actual guideline - If a person tried to interpret the change from "Surname" to "family name" as if it was a real policy change, that could be accused of being an act of Wikipedia:Wikilawyering - I am trying to better express a principle, and I do not feel that the changed wording constitutes as a real policy change WhisperToMe (talk) 00:02, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
In response to WhisperToMe's numbered points and later additions...
1. The current quality and accuracy of the Wikipedia article Surname is unrelated to our discussion here.
2. Here's the crux of the issue: the term "family name" is a subset of the term "surname." Granted, it's a large subset, but a subset all the same. Why would you want to use "family name" when it is not correct for all cases?
3. Your wording is not clearer. It is, in fact, less accurate. A person who takes a pseudonym is not using their family name -- they use a surname of their own choosing. And some older figures may be named for their occupation or a title, rather than a family name. Family name is not acceptable because it is less accurate for this guideline, which must encompass the vast number of biographical articles on Wikipeda, so yes, I still object to your imposing it in the way you did.
About your last point: you deleted a whole paragraph of the guideline, so yes, you were making bigger changes. And you also made arguments (which were a little unclear) about how we should not use surnames for certain cultures. --Melty girl (talk) 00:12, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Now I understand your point about the pseudonyms and the "surnames" of those. So, because some medieval European figures and some people using pseudonyms are not using "family names," the way I worded it is now too general. Is this what you mean? If so, regarding the fictional pseudonyms, why not use "surname" when referring to pseudonyms but family names when referring to most real names? Perhaps the sentence could say "In most cases use the 'surname,' or the final part of the name of the pseudonym, even though it is not technically a family name" - something like that. Even though that is not actually said in the current wording, IMO it is implied (We know that Twain is not the actual family name of Mark Twain, for instance, but we use it anyway). I hope, though, that this will not increase a possibility of Wikilawyering...

"About your last point: you deleted a whole paragraph of the guideline," - I added a paragraph [19] and moved another [20]. The added one is a reminder that policies can differ across cultures. I do not see where I deleted a paragraph. WhisperToMe (talk) 00:19, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Sorry if you did not delete -- I must have been moving too fast, so sorry if I was wrong about that. About your main point above that: "Family names" is not too general -- it is too specific. That's the problem: it doesn't apply to all situations the way that "surname" does, and is therefore inadequate. I don't understand why you persist in arguing for the more inaccurate, less encompassing term. The section of the guideline in question started off saying "use surname", and that's the term that should be used throughout for clarity. Why are you so insistent on working family name in, when its meaning isn't quite the same? Please remember, we're talking about thousands of biographies of people, both living and long dead -- this isn't just about what people do today. --Melty girl (talk) 00:27, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
In other words, the word "family name" as used on this page is meant to imply all of the various definitions used (family name AND terminal part of name, regardless of type), correct? WhisperToMe (talk) 05:26, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, I don't understand what you're suggesting. Family name doesn't have any other meanings other than family name. It's one type of surname, the dominant one for the past several hundred years, but not the only type. --Melty girl (talk) 06:45, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
What I meant is that: Is the usage of "surname" on the MOS page supposed to imply all definitions of the word "surname" at one time? EDIT: I meant to put surname there.. not family name. Whoops! WhisperToMe (talk) 06:58, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Still not sure I understand what you're asking. Surname means what it means in English, according to the dictionary--see the above link. Why wouldn't it mean what it means? --Melty girl (talk) 07:05, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
You mean as a part added to a (given) name, correct? What I meant is, does the usage of "surname" as in the category include all types of surnames? (Family names, titles, and names indicating other circumstances of birth - anything within "name, title, or epithet added to a person's name") WhisperToMe (talk) 10:50, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I can only repeat that surname means everything that surname means. Why wouldn't it? --Melty girl (talk) 17:33, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

(outdent) I also see no advantage in changing from the broader "surname" to the more specific "family name". --ROGER DAVIES talk 00:47, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

Likewise, I don't understand the objection to "surname". Family name seems weaker because it implies a narrower meaning. Another example of ambiguity is people who are known by a surname which is not their family name. For example, Ringo Starr's surname is "Starr", and this is how he is correctly named throughout his article. However, it is certainly arguable that his family name is "Starkey" (ie his parents' surname). Bluewave (talk) 08:30, 11 December 2007 (UTC)

However there is a separate section dealing with pseudonyms, and "surname" could be used in that section. Regarding real names, would the use of "family name" still cause issues? Are there enough figures that are known by a "surname" that is not a "family name" that would be shortchanged by this? Anyway, the reason why, for real people, I prefer the use of "family name" is because in some cultures the family name uses a different order (i.e. in Korean and Chinese family names are first), and it seems strange to use "surname" regarding Chinese and Korean cultures. WhisperToMe (talk) 10:39, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Your argument aboout Icelandic names doesn't hold water. Icelanders have surnames. Some of those are family names, and most are patronymic names. Both fit the definition of surnames. What they generally call each other does not enter into this discussion. WP articles on Icelanders generally are given the title (given name) (surname), or (first name) (last name), which is the same thing. Changing 'surname' to 'family name' marginalizes the Icelanders. You have unnecessarily narrowed the scope of this guideline by changing the terminology. Chris the speller (talk) 17:16, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Chris the speller, the guideline in question says "After the initial mention of any name, the person may be referred to by surname only. For example:" - "What they generally call each other" is relevant to this. If Icelandic people do not follow this rule, their surnames are irrelevant to this guideline and changing the wording to "family name" would not shortchange Icelandic people at all. Icelandic people are not covered by this guideline, nor will they ever be regardless of whether the policy says "surname" or "family name" WhisperToMe (talk) 05:02, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
You misunderstand the meaning of "surname" -- it does not mean the name that comes last or after. It translates from the original French as "above the name" -- meaning your given name is the name that only you have, identifying you as an individual, while your surname is a name that is not as primary or individual to you, but instead tells something else about you and often, but not always, is shared with others in your family. It's about a kind of hierarchy, not word order. This is why "surname" is preferable to "last name". "Last name" would be unacceptable for the reason you mention regarding Korean and Chinese name order. But "surname" does not mean the same thing, and is fine. (BTW, name order bias is why I did not revert how you changed "first name" to "given name".) Sorry to say this, but I think you have not mounted a single valid argument for why "family name" should be used instead of "surname," and you're spinning your wheels. As of right now, four people disagree with you and none agree. While you are of course, free to keep arguing about this, I want to suggest that both you and I step back for a little while and allow others to weigh in. I think we've now said almost everything that we can say, and your persistence with coming back is only lengthening this thread without deepening its content and is making it more likely that others won't want to take the time to read it all and comment. --Melty girl (talk) 17:33, 11 December 2007 (UTC)
Wait, if Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia (even though he is a King, he is not referred to by his given name in the West) stands as an example of a person often referred to by a surname that is not a family name, then I think I found a relevant figure. - Anyway, since I understand the technical definition of surname, I don't feel as strongly about it. I still prefer "family name," but it may narrow and exclude some groups, so I guess the debate's over. WhisperToMe (talk) 05:02, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

However, I still feel that, along with Kings and knighted people, "other cultures" (Vietnamese, Icelandic) should be mentioned as exceptions to the general Subsequent surnames rule. WhisperToMe (talk) 05:12, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

I don't understand what you mean; but if you have an idea, why don't you draft some language and propose it here under a new heading? If you want to have some kind of exception made to the guideline, this is the place to work on it with other editors. --Melty girl (talk) 08:19, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

Pseudonym guideline wording

The "Subsequent uses of names" section says:

For people who are best known by a pseudonym, they shall be referred to by their pseudonym surname, or if not applicable, some other suitable abbreviation (or without abbreviation if none is suitable).

The general guideline here is "use surname only", the "best known by" just says "a pseudonym" and the description of what to use is "pseudonym surname". So does this all only apply for pseudonym surnames? Or if the person is known by a single-name pseudonym do we use that? What about if the pseudonym is just the first name (bordering on a nickname)? Some clearer wording and/or examples would be useful here. DMacks 21:40, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

I agree with you that more clarity is needed here. The guideline as written is too vague: what is a "suitable abbreviation"? I have no idea. I propose an alternative. --Melty girl (talk) 21:06, 15 December 2007 (UTC)

People who are best known by a pseudonym shall be subsequently referred to by their pseudonymous surnames, unless they do not include a recognizable surname in the pseudonym (i.e. Madonna, Snoop Dogg, The Edge), in which case the whole pseudonym is to be used. For people well-known by one-word names, nicknames or pseudonyms, but who often also use their legal names professionally (i.e. musician/actors Beyoncé Knowles, André Benjamin, Jennifer Lopez), use the legal surname.

As people can see, this issue has been raised by a few people over time, but has been repeatedly ignored. In the absence of any comments, I implemented my proposal. I believe it is clearer, logical and, for the most part, follows current practice on Wikipedia and in many publications. Comments are, of course, still welcome. --Melty girl (talk) 17:16, 22 December 2007 (UTC)