In the Name of the Fada

You might remember my griping about the Polish support folks in CWT not being able to handle the apostophe yet alone the accent on the capital “O” in my name. Now some Irish people have similar problems with diacritics (extended characters).

If you have an Irish name, say “Liam Ó Maonlaí”, then you might expect U.S. authorities (whatever about the population) to mangle your name thus:

* Liam OMaonlai (IRS/DMV: Don’t do accents, apostrophes, or spaces)

* Liam O’Maonlai (Department of State: Don’t do accents).

* Liam O. Maonlai (telephone providers, insurance, etc, immediately giving you a middle initial. I always liked to insist on a trailing “VI” everytime they did this to me).

The Social Security people get it right: Liam Ó Maonlaí (ironically, the SSN itself tracks you anyway).

But now, the Irish themselves are at it. And worse, they’re managing to combine apostrophes with the accent on the “O” (known as a fada or síneadh fada in Irish):  Liam Ó’Maonlaí

(photo taken in The Coombe, Dublin, 25-June).

So, the next time you hear an Irish person knocking how Americans say “Ma-Hone-E” instead of “Mah-On-E” for “Mahony”, ask them to spell the name of the former lead singer of the Hot House Flowers.

Ultan Ó Broin
Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally. Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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