This is actual email I received from Apple earlier today. Apparently, their support “community” cannot handle the lowly apostrophe, which has been part of my name since birth, and part of my username for at least the last 10 years.

Of course, the part that really got me was: Please note, the username we’re offering you is an exception, and we’d appreciate your not publicizing it.

At first, I thought maybe it was spam, but then I went to the Apple Support Community page where I recently posted an answer to a question—and my name had been changed to Creoirtronk.

How could they give me the name Creoirtronk and expect me to not say anything about it? I actually sort of like it. I’ve already added it to my Twitter and Facebook profiles, in fact.

But really, let’s focus on the real problem: the inability—not just of Apple, but all sorts of other companies and organizations, and even my state’s health insurance exchange—to accommodate the apostrophe.

Even though the apostrophe is not a letter of the alphabet, it is part of the standard English-language keyboard and character set, and it is part of people’s names. O’Brien, O’Conner, O’Malley, D’Angelo, and so on—the apostrophes are not typos or afterthoughts. These names are NOT Obrien, Oconner, Omalley, or Dangelo (or O’brien, O’conner, O’malley, or D’angelo, for that matter). (Similarly, McDonald, McCartney, McHenry, and the like are NOT Mcdonald, Mccartney, or Mchenry—but that’s another level of ignorance.)

A person’s name is perhaps the most fundamental external characteristic that belongs to a person. Getting a person’s name correct is, therefore, the most basic level of courtesy and respect that you can extend to another person. If you can’t respect someone enough to get their name right, what other, more serious indignities might you be capable of inflicting upon them?

Particularly at fault here are programmers and coders. How are they allowed to get away with such poor design and lack of foresight that the results of their work can be tripped up by a standard keyboard character that is used in people’s names? Folks like me have long had to put up with human error and lack of attention to detail; now, when we are at a point where we can enter our own information and bypass the usual layer of sloppiness, this lack of attention to detail is codified in the very tools at our disposal.

And let’s look at the folks who are perpetuating this problem: the companies and organizations who train and hire these folks. In the 90s, Apple was on the brink of extinction; now they are one of the biggest companies on the planet. Microsoft has had a smoother path, but they are in a similarly exalted position. Yet, for all the things they (and the other tech companies) have accomplished, more than half the time they can’t get past a simple apostrophe.

I can add a song from a CD to my computer and have it available on my phone—without having to go to the trouble of downloading that song from my computer to my phone—to listen to in my car. But I can’t use my real name on a computer bulletin board—or get insurance under my proper name—because my last name has an apostrophe in it.

That’s just wrong.

6 June 2021


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