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SO is an English language site (the lingua franca of the IT world).

But there are lots of users names that are partially or wholly comprised with non-English characters, especially "non letters" (like symbols and non-letter glyphs). From a consistency aspect, why is that "OK", but posts that are not in English are "not OK"?

There is a practical aspect to this question too: Most people don't have easy access to foreign language keyboard input. When trying to respond to such a user, if the first character is a foreign character, it's tricky to get an auto-suggest for their user name after typing @ in a comment. You have to use your mouse to copy-paste the user name in. If you happen to be using a mobile device, specifically an iPhone, this can be quite tricky.


This was not meant to ignite a cultural debate. It's just asking about consistency. It seems usernames are off limits for that.

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    The auto-suggest is intelligent enough to accept the normalized version of a character, which should take most of the pain away. Do you really mean non-English characters or non-Latin ones? Do you want to force José to rename himself Jose just to accommodate the community? That would be ridiculous, IMO. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Apr 5 '14 at 14:50
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    I think there is a vast difference between asking people to communicate in a single language and asking them to take on an alias that fits with the general population of a site. Not saying your point of replying to folks can't be hard - but that seems more a trivial bug compared to asking folks to reject their heritage. Sorry, but I actually find this bordering on offensive :( – Fluffeh Apr 5 '14 at 14:51
  • @Pëkka actually non latin I'm thinking of. I'll change the question. I don't care about accents. – Bohemian Apr 5 '14 at 14:54
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    thinking about changing my user name to 蚊蚋 to make 放荡不羁 feel better – gnat Apr 5 '14 at 14:55
  • @Fluffeh I'm thinking about unicode wingding type characters (although thye may actually be letters in some language) – Bohemian Apr 5 '14 at 14:55
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    The auto-suggest problem could (and should) have a technical solution. – Pekka supports GoFundMonica Apr 5 '14 at 14:55
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    Going to agree to @Pëkka here - this could and should be solved as a technical issue. I still say that asking people to remove their identity for the sake of conforming is asking more than the principles of this site would have ever asked of them. – Fluffeh Apr 5 '14 at 15:00
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The reason is simple:

  • you need to be able to read a post in order to vote on it, flag it, or otherwise react to it
  • you don't need to be able to read a user name

The reply system has removed most of the pain involved in trying to @ a user with a nonLatinalphabet name. (See the accepted answer to Dealing with "difficult" usernames in targeted comments.) Note that a name can be in the Latin alphabet and still not be in English.

  • Re "you don't need to be able to read a user name": it's unclear what action the verb "read" here is meant to signify. Pronounce? Correctly pronounce? Distinguish? Even if all usernames were patterns of random dots, like the auto-generated user icons, or if those icons were the usernames, just by looking at them users are reading them as graphics and visually distinct iconography. – agc Aug 14 '18 at 2:48
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Usernames aren't important. In fact they are so unimportant that they can be changed every 30 days if one so desires.

The only restrictions to usernames is that they not be offensive. Beyond that, let the users express themselves in whatever way they prefer, even if they choose to use unicode characters you aren't able to understand or easily type.

There's little reason to force english speaking users to also adopt english names for your personal convenience. They've already done the hard part of learning your language, don't make them give up their identity.

  • Translation and adaptation don't necessarily destroy identity. Consider the case of a name that has a mundane meaning in one language, but in the target language is a forbidden obscenity. Modifying it to reflect the meaning of the name in the target language seems more sensible than constantly apologizing. – agc Aug 14 '18 at 2:57
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Just because Stack Exchange is supposed to be English, doesn't mean that we should force people to write their names in English - they might get offended by this.

As for the @reply problem, it's easy to solve, you can just copy-paste the username. How hard is that?

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    On an iPhone, it's reasonably painful – Bohemian Apr 5 '14 at 14:51
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    More than "might feel offended": it's an incredible demonstration of chutzpah to reject a person's real name because it has a few characters that are hard to type. – Michael Petrotta Apr 5 '14 at 14:52
  • @MichaelPetrotta but if a Russian person wants to take on a user name that's their real name, most folks won't be able to read it let alone type it. – Bohemian Apr 5 '14 at 14:57
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    @Bohemian, who cares? Better that than user31415927. – Michael Petrotta Apr 5 '14 at 15:01
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The only real problem with non-english names is that they might be offensive, which is hard to judge for someone that doesn't speak the language. But this is rare enough that I don't think it is a big problem. Automatic translation can deal with many of those cases, and there are so many moderators that it isn't that hard to find someone that speaks the right language.

Non-english questions and answers have much, much more problems than that. They are completely useless to anyone that doesn't speak the language, but there is no way to filter them out. They are also difficult to moderate, and automatic translation is not really sufficient unlike with names, where the potential issues are far more limited and there is no context to understand.

I also just tried to reply to a user with a completely non-ascii name, and I automatically got that user as an auto-complete option. So this case seems to be covered and there is no significant drawback to non-ascii names when replying.

  • Side note: Why can't non-English posts be filtered/auto flagged? It should be pretty straightforward to detect if a post is in English or not. – Bohemian Apr 5 '14 at 15:08
  • @Bohemian The communtiy is good enough at flagging those that I doubt that automatic flagging with the inevitable false positives would be a good idea. – Mad Scientist Apr 5 '14 at 15:09

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