Name sorting - middle name (Janelle Monae)

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I noticed the sort name for Janelle Monae has been changed twice this year. It appears that Monae is actually her middle name, but I would suspect that most people would sort her under ‘M’. I’ve also seen this with Elis Regina who used part of her name not including the last and is sorted under ‘E’.

I can see both points, and don’t want to start some sort of revert war. What’s the general consensus?

Sort names containing non-English articles

I have queued a fix and added some comments in the most recent error edit.


First, in our heads, we need to separate the artist name from the legal name. They are two separate statements even though, in this case, they contain the same names.

If John Smith used artist name Frank Black, would we even question that Black, Frank was correct? Of course not. So, then, why is would Janelle Robinson be any different for Janelle Monae.

Her artist last name is Monae. Her legal last name is Robinson.


That would be the other thought. I think Alicia Keys would be the best example. Alicia is her real first name, if she went by Alicia Augello instead of Alicia Keys, would the sort be handled differently?

And what’s the best way to determine this? I had a back and forth over the artist Com Truise (which is an alias). It had been sorted as ‘Truise, Com’ but I pointed out that it was always treated as a single name ‘Com Truise’. Whereas artists such as Alicia Keys and Janelle Monae are often referred to with their ‘artist last name’.


I would go with the “duck test” - if the artist name looks sufficiently like a real first + last name (or other combination, depending on culture) that most people would assume, with no other knowledge, that it is, then treat it that way.

In Janelle Monae’s case, the New York Times and The Economist both refer to her as “Ms. Monae” which further weighs in the same direction.

Sort names containing non-English articles

That’s the way I typically feel, but wasn’t sure if the “duck test” would go against the rules here.

Then again, until I started using MB I sorted Dave Matthews Band under ‘D’.


The duck test does not apply or is contradicted as soon as you see her legal name being Janelle Monáe Robinson.
And instead of going on with a misunderstanding, we start pointing the correct thing.


I don’t agree. The “duck test” in this case is simply, does it look like a conventional name? And that would be equally true whether Janelle Monáe Robinson chose as her performance name Janelle Monáe or Janelle Smith.


In many libraries, some people use your duck system and some don’t.
So when you are looking for DEF LEPPARD CD you must look in both D and L shelves…
I don’t think we should use duck system.
Especially not with obvious case like here where we simply know that it’s her given names.


The duck test is: “If it looks like a duck, then it is a duck”, but if you already know it’s not a duck then how can it look like a duck to you?

Also the duck test is not in the guidelines, but “Middle names and nicknames should be treated as a part of the given name.” is.


After I got arrested, my parole forced me to have an employer – like a “real” job. With an address and set hours. I referred to it as my babysitter.
Far different than self-employed hours of 24/7 everywhere and anywhere.

I took a sales job. The company wanted to put my name and number on business cards so that I could be reached by customers.
I got a “burn” phone that couldn’t be tracked back to me. And I said on the cards to put my first and middle names. That way, I wasn’t lying about my name but I wasn’t exposing my privacy, particularly after my legal issues (which would be a public relations nightmare for the company).

Of course, the accounting office was always confused with who I was because they had my real name. But to customers and my co-workers, I was to be addressed by a different name.
Everyone assumed my (legal) middle name was my last name. And that is how I planned it. After years in the entertainment business, always having a “stage name”, I created yet another identity for my legitimate work - a new first and last name.


To me that guideline is simply clarifying that “Billy Ray Cyrus” and “Ray ‘Duck’ Atkins” should be sorted as “Cyrus, Billy Ray” and “Atkins, Ray ‘Duck’” (rather than something like “Ray Cyrus, Billy”).

If we were to apply these two guidelines literally in this case:

  1. Person artist names have sort name “family name, given name”.
    a. Middle names and nicknames should be treated as a part of the given name.

…and, as stated above, Janelle’s family name is Robinson, then the correct sort name would be “Robinson, Janelle Monáe” which would be extremely confusing to anyone not highly familiar with Ms. Monáe.


Yeah well the sentence “Person artist names have sort name “family name, given name”.” is obviously a mistake. It should read “Person legal names…”, or something like that, otherwise we’d sort “Prince” under “N” and “Dr. Dre” under “Y”.


To turn that question around…what percentage of people who might be looking up Janelle Monáe are likely to know her legal name? Until this discussion I assumed Monáe was her last name.

Is it reasonable to expect everyone looking at duck-like birds to have a degree in ornithology? :smiley:


But Monae is her last name… her artist last name.