Help with names

Keith Robison robison1 at
Sun Apr 11 23:54:57 EST 1993

gopher at (Gopher ) writes:

>Could some one explain to me how to address people with surnames
>as follows (fictitious names)

>Sean O'Keefe   (what does the O mean)
>James MacDonald (Mac refers to ?)
>Peter van der Ley (van der?)
>Loius de la Maza (de la?)
>Hans van Houten (van?)
>Emil von Kruppen (von?)

I believe the literal translations into English are:
	O' 			of
	Mac / Mc / M'		son of
	de / van / von		from
	de la / van der		from the

In any case, the habit (or at least the one I am used to) is to
use these in referring to someone.  Thus, in an English I would
refer to "von Braun, Werner" not "Braun, Werner von" and we speak
of "van der Waals" forces.  However, in alphabetical listings
the rules are frequently different.  For example, in my dictionary's
biographical section "van der Waals" is under "W".  O' and Mac are
not ignored in alphabetizing, though I believe some works treat "Mc"
and "Mac" the same.

Hope this helps.

Keith Robison
Harvard University
Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology
Department of Genetics / HHMI

robison at 

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