Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A limit on long last names—somehow

Longer last names take more space than shorter ones. If a last name gets too long, it may not fit on a name tag or into a fill-out form anymore. Very long names also fill up a lot of space in author lists of article headings and reference sections in publications—without contributing to the subject. What should the maximum length of a last name be? In Germany, a supreme court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) decision (May 5, 2009) reinstated the existing regulation of having no more than two names. After marriage, a couple may combine their two names, but only, if each partner has a single name. Well, how long can a single name be? Two long single names combined can be longer than a chain of three or four short names!

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